Assassins, cowboys and a Gingerbread Witch: Minn. Opera unveils 2014-15 Season

The Minnesota Opera announced its 2014-2015 season this afternoon with a star studded webcast live from the Opera Center in the Minneapolis Warehouse District.

The season will open in late September with “La fanciulla del West” by Giacomo Puccini.

“It’s one of those lesser known Puccinis” said Minnesota Opera Artistic Director Dale Johnson.  “It’s not unlike Turandot in it’s harmonic complexity — but it’s set in the Wild West.” Johnson promises bandits and sheriff, and of course a love affair. “It’s really a great piece. It’s not done all that much but it’s really a pleasure to sing, and it’s just fun.”

Next up is a new Minnesota Opera production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel,” which will run in early November.

“I think ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is always construed as a children’s opera,” said Johnson. “But in fact it’s Wagnerian, the orchestra is Wagnerian. So you have these two kids trying to sound like kids in it with this big “BRRARR” coming out of the pit. But it really is a genius piece.”

Johnson promises a little different take on the piece in the Doug Varone-directed production . “Very colorful, as well as very dark” Johnson said.

In January the company will mount Donizetti’s light-hearted comedy “The Elixir of Love,” about a love-struck young man who sets out to win the heart of a local land owner with the aid of a “magic” potion. “It’s one of the great comedies in the opera tome,” said Johnson.

The season continues in March with the much anticipated world premier of “The Manchurian Candidate,” a commission by the Minnesota Opera from Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell who created the Pulitzer-winning “Silent Night”  a little more than two years ago.

“This is a piece which is a polar opposite from “Silent Night” which was such a warm, beautiful, kind of hymn to humanity,” said Johnson. “This piece is really all about paranoia. And it’s all about the use of fear in politics. And it is as relevant today was it was back in the 60’s when the Cold War was raging.”

The story about a U.S. hero who is brainwashed and trained to be an assassin for the communists was the basis for the hugely popular film, based on the best-selling Richard Condon novel.

The final production in the season is Bizet’s “Carmen” in late April and early May. “We are doing a very different take on this production,” said Johnson. He says it will be a little more realistic than the most recent Minnesota Opera production which he says leaned a great deal towards Fellini.  This one will “have a real sense of Spain, and a real sense of gypsy grit, and probably a little more trying to understand Don Jose.”

Find more details at the Minnesota Opera website.

Here’s video of the season unveiling: