Mariachi and smartphones. Bel canto and Bernstein. And an intriguing mix of the fresh and familiar.
That's what is slated for the Minnesota Opera's 2023-24 season, announced Tuesday. Beginning with a modern opera rooted in the traditional Mexican musical style of mariachi, the four-production season concludes with one of the most popular operas ever created, Giacomo Puccini's tale of love found and lost, "La Boheme."
Here's what the company has planned for its 61st season, with all productions staged in St. Paul's Ordway Music Theater except where noted:
'Cruzar la Cara de la Luna'
In one of its most novel presentations of the past decade, the company took over Allianz Field soccer stadium on a September night in 2021 for "Opera Afuera," at which most audience members surely had their first encounters with Spanish zarzuelas and opera in the style of Argentine tango and Mexican mariachi. Although not offered under the stars, it will be a rare chance to experience this full-length mariachi opera, composed by José "Pepe" Martinez with a libretto by Leonard Foglia. And that libretto is convertible, as each version of this story about a family divided by the U.S.-Mexico border is intended to be set in the city in which it's performed. (Nov. 4-12)
'The Elixir of Love'
If Minnesota Opera has a composer-in-residence, it would seem to be either Puccini or Gaetano Donizetti, as the company has performed 22 operas by the pair during this century alone. That habit continues with one opera by each during the 2023-24 season, starting with this delightful comic work about a fruit vendor, an innkeeper and a huckster peddling love potions. It was last produced by Minnesota Opera in 2015, but this is an imaginative new staging that won an Opera America award for its director and design team in 2021. And it features as the female lead Vanessa Becerra, who just wowed local audiences as the title character in Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment." Her lovelorn pursuer will be tenor Andrew Stenson. Christopher Franklin conducts. (Jan. 27-Feb. 4)
'Trouble in Tahiti' and 'Service Provider'
This season, Minnesota Opera has presented two operas at its new Minneapolis space, the Luminary Arts Center. It will pare that to one production next season — sort of. It's actually offering two one-act operas in one evening, starting with the company's first production of a Leonard Bernstein opera since 1977. His "Trouble in Tahiti" is a sad snapshot of a dissolving marriage, while Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos' "Service Provider" is a contemporary comic opera about a couple held captive by their smartphones. (March 9-24, 2024)
Sure, Minnesota Opera makes some innovative programming choices, but — except for when it went mostly online during the peak of the pandemic — it always sets aside at least one slot a season for one of the world's 10 most popular and oft-produced operas. This year, it's Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (May 6-21), and next season concludes with Puccini's "La Boheme," the tuneful tale of love among starving artists in 19th-century Paris. It's so popular that it will receive twice as many performances as the season's other productions, with two sets of leads alternating. With this, Minnesota Opera's seventh "La Boheme," it will become the most oft-presented opera in the company's history. Christopher Franklin returns to the podium for this production directed by Rodula Gaitanou. (May 4-11, 2024, but don't be surprised if it gets extended.)
Season ticket packages range from $64 to $575 and are on sale at 612-333-6669 and mnopera.org. Individual tickets go on sale in July.
Rob Hubbard is a Twin Cities classical music writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.