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David Lefkowich had his eye on the Basilica of St. Mary, the grand Catholic cathedral just off the edge of Minneapolis' Loring Park. Literally.

"I have a condo that's right by the Walker [Art Center]," said the artistic director of Minneapolis-based Out of the Box Opera. "During COVID, I would stand on that balcony with nothing to do but stare at the city, which is beautiful. But I'd look over at the basilica and the bells would ring. And I said, 'I want to do a show there. That would be awesome.'"

But what opera would fit the setting and mission of Minneapolis' capital of Catholicism? While meeting with Johan van Parys, the basilica's director of liturgy and sacred arts, one suddenly popped to Lefkowich's mind: "Suor Angelica," Giacomo Puccini's convent-set, one-act opera about a nun haunted by her past.

"I didn't expect Johan to know as much about opera as he does," Lefkowich said. "He said, 'OK, that's an interesting choice.' "

The seed planted in that conversation comes to full blossom this week when Out of the Box Opera presents "Suor Angelica" at the basilica. A promenade-style staging, it will take an audience of up to 200 from a community room in the building's lowest level to an intimate chapel, then conclude in the expansive central nave, lined with stones and statuary.

"We're very committed to contributing to the celebration of the arts in the community," van Parys said of the basilica. "That's part of our mission. Mostly the sacred arts, obviously, but I was very intrigued by the idea of an opera. I've always loved opera. My mother used to take me and my younger brother. 'Tosca' was my first opera. I was probably 9 years old."

Lefkowich also knows "Tosca" well, as he directed that Puccini masterpiece last decade when he was artistic director of Mill City Summer Opera. Its productions were presented in the ruins of a riverside flour mill, in the Mill City Museum courtyard.

Now he returns to Puccini with Out of the Box, a company he founded in 2018 that's presented offbeat fare like a series of "Diva Cage Matches" — featuring sopranos singing arias in a boxing gym — and adaptations of George Frideric Handel's "Acis and Galatea" and Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" that, like "Suor Angelica," asked audiences to move from room to room.

Although van Parys thought "Suor Angelica" fit well with the basilica's mission with its story of a woman rejected by her aristocratic family finding love and acceptance within the church — "Ultimately, it's about redemption," he said, "and that's what we're all about" — some permissions were required. But Archbishop Bernard Hebda approved of the production, which will be sung in Italian, with audience members encouraged to scan a QR code on their cellphones to read translations of the text as they move from floor to floor of the basilica. (No photos or video are allowed.)

Also making the journey upward is an orchestra of 24, although the central showdown in the chapel between the title character and a domineering aunt will feature a more intimate ensemble. Then it's up to the basilica's grand central space, the nave, where the cast, chorus and orchestra are joined by 30 members of the Basilica Cathedral Choir (and the church's organ) for a transporting finale.

Singing the role of Suor Angelica is a soprano of increasing renown, Alexandra Loutsion, while her antagonist is mezzo Alice Chung, the recent winner of Los Angeles' Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition. Composed by the creator of "La Bohème" and "Madame Butterfly," "Suor Angelica" is the rare all-woman opera.

"At Out of the Box, we want the opera and the space to have a perfect fusion, where they interact with one another and make each other better," Lefkowich said. "And this is a perfect example of that."

Out of the Box Opera's 'Suor Angelica'

When: 7 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 2 p.m. Sat.

Where: Basilica of St. Mary, 1600 Hennepin Av., Mpls.

Tickets: $95, available at outoftheboxopera.org

Rob Hubbard is a Twin Cities classical music writer. Reach him at wordhub@yahoo.com.