DULUTH — The lead in Lyric Opera of the North's upcoming production of "Cavalleria Rusticana" quietly moved to Duluth in 2021 — a settling-in for the once-nomadic soprano who had performed from the Nashville Opera to the Missouri Symphony to the Arizona Opera.
Lacy Sauter was remodeling her new house in West Duluth. Life was slowed by COVID-19. She wasn't ready to perform yet, she recalled telling a friend when pressed about why she hadn't immediately introduced herself to the local opera company.
"I've never been very good at self-promoting," Sauter said. "I'm never one to reach out and do something like that. I'm like 'There's an official audition notice, I will submit my materials.'"
Prompted by her friend, Sauter both networked and auditioned. She will play Santuzza in the lavish production that includes upwards of 80 cast and crew members, most who live in Duluth or have ties to this region. The opera, by Pietro Mascagni, Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, runs June 9 and June 11 at Marshall Performing Arts Center on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.
Sarah Lawrence, who is Lyric Opera of the North's (LOON) co-artistic director with her husband Calland Metts, said her most frequent response to this nearly 20-year-old company is one of surprise that it exists in Duluth.
"'Oh! I had no idea,'" she said, describing first-time audiences.
Sauter knew. She moved to Minnesota with an eye on artistic opportunities in the Twin Cities, and then found plenty to do in Duluth. She has been in several Duluth Playhouse musicals and has plans to sing with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra next season and perform recitals alongside a pianist she has met.
During a recent rehearsal, Sauter was wrapped in a prop baby bump with a shawl falling off her shoulders. Santuzza is enraged with her lover, who also has another lover, and takes out her white-hot rage on a common foot stool.
The wooden chair flipped and spun on the makeshift stage in a church basement.
"Cavalleria Rusticana" marks the return of mezzo-soprano Georgia Jacobson singing the part of Lola, who is a piece of a romantic conundrum. Jacobson grew up with this opera company. She played with toys in the audience, and was sometimes held rapt by the voices on the stage — singers she believed were celebrities.
Her mother, Ruth Jacobson, founded it in the early 2000s and Lawrence and Metts took over when Ruth died in 2010. Since then, Georgia Jacobson has continued to find reasons to return to her home company. This time she has made the trip from Los Angeles, where she is based, to sing one of her top three operas — one that she was introduced to when LOON performed it in its 2011-2012 season.
Jacobson said it means a lot to see this vision that her mother had and that Lawrence and Metts have continued — that people from northern Minnesota needed opera and would support it.
"Watching LOON turn into what it is has been so incredible for me, so emotional, just really unbelievable," she said.
The one-act is directed by Marni Raab, who had an extended run as Christine Daaé in the Broadway production of "The Phantom of the Opera" and directed LOON's "Trouble in Tahiti" and "The Filthy Habit" in 2018.
The chorus of 35 includes Alice Pierce and John Pierce who spent more than a decade performing in Germany; Metts, a tenor who has starred in Duluth Playhouse shows, alongside symphonies and in handfuls of LOON productions; and Rebecca Farmer, a LOON regular who has performed internationally.
When: 7 p.m. Fri., 3 p.m. Sun.
Where: Marshall Performing Arts Center, 1215 Ordean Court, Duluth.
Tickets: $27-$57. $12 students with ID. 218-464-0922, loonopera.org/events/cavalleria-rusticana.