King Idomeneo, Mixed Precipitation’s Picnic Operetta

August 19, 2012
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Peter Hogan as Neptune in “King Idomeneo.”

Mixed Precipitation returns for a fourth season with opera outdoors, paired with snacks and set in a community garden. It’s about music, theater, community, sustainable food production and eating locally—and simply delightful entertainment. The annual production is masterminded by one of the Twin Cities’ most inventive theater people, director Scotty Reynolds, with support from mater gardener and chef Nick Schneider, and music director Marya Hart. The cast of twenty-four singers and musicians deliver an afternoon outing of pure fun. This year’s selection is a funky adaptation by Reynolds of Mozart’s 1780 Italian opera, Idomeneo, ré di Creta (King of Crete). Hart alternates select arias, quartets and choruses with original ‘50s and ‘60s-inspired doo-wop, accompanied by capable musicians on guitar, violin, cello and accordion.

It is after the Trojan War and the people of Crete are waiting to welcome home their king, Idomeneo. But a storm threatens to sink the king’s ship, and only a promise to the god Neptune saves him and his crew. Idomeneo cannot bring himself to keep his terrible promise, though, and Crete suffers the consequences until the Prince and his true love appease Neptune and save the city.

If you’re an opera buff, you’ll get a big kick out of it; if you know nothing about opera, you’ll get a big kick out of it—a smattering of rolling subtitles will keep you on track. But it’s not a spoof, you understand. These people can really sing, most notably tenor Jim Ahrens as King Idomeneo, bass James Ramlet as his advisor Arbace, tenor Brad Bradshaw as Prince Idamante and soprano Lauren Drasler as his love interest, Ilia, the Trojan Princess. Rachel Wandrei was also a standout as the revenge-seeking Electra.

This is like being in a musical, rather than watching it on a screen; you’ll miss some things, but the experience will be memorable.The cast dashes from one end of the garden to the other, bearing set pieces and props, and dodging the onions, taking us from shipwreck to city, to the sewers and the seashore, all the while projecting over the neighborhood’s ambient sounds and keeping us firmly attached to the story—loose though the story may be. There were some downright daffy costumes, but mostly it stuck with a happy palette of ’60’s-inspired vintage-looking getups. With some stringy sleeves and wraps, the cast also becomes the ooze in the sewers that threatens the city. (Not exactly in the original Mozart, but it all works.)

Gardens, farms, orchards and vineyards in the Twin Cities metro and beyond, from Columbia Heights to North Branch, and Hastings to Northfield are the sites for the performances. You can bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on, but some are provided. You may be nestled among the cabbages and peppers while passing trays of  freshly prepared, tasty morsels, carefully timed to match the action of the performance.

Afternoon performances run Saturdays and Sundays through September 23rd. Friday evening performance on August 24th at 7:00pm. Visit www.mixedprecipitation.org to view the schedule and reserve tickets. Recommended and enjoyable for all ages.

 

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