Mill City Opera's Pagliacci

Mill City Opera mounts a short, humorous Pagliacci in the museum’s open courtyard.

Mill City Opera's Pagliacci
Illustration by Jennifer Caprio

The Mill City Museum might seem like an odd venue for opera. But when Mill City Opera founder Karen Brooks and artistic director David Lefkowich saw the museum courtyard, they were smitten. “It was striking,” Lefkowich says. “There’s an opera-sized feeling to the space. There’s something sweeping and lush that seems to marry beautifully with opera.”

At the time, Brooks had been looking for opportunities to present summer opera and liked the idea of becoming Minnesota’s only outdoor opera company. But the Mill City site created some constraints. “There’s a shelf life to sitting outside, so we wanted something short but traditional,” he says. Clocking in at about 85 minutes, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci fits the bill. The verismo tale of love, jealousy, and murder among a troupe of seedy actors also fits nicely among the brick ruins of the museum courtyard. The production is set in the early 1900s, when the mill was last operational. Lefkowich also likes that it’s the story of an opera company setting up shop in a new town.

Mill City Opera is bringing in a company of nationally recognized up-and-coming singers, including tenor Richard Crawley as the jealous husband Canio, soprano Jill Gardner as wife Nedda, and baritone Andrew Wilkowske as the manipulative Tonio. The chorus will be made up of local singers.

Lefkowich has ideas for many operas that would fit well into the courtyard and hopes in future years to add a musical to run in rep with the operas. “More opera is not a bad thing,” he says—especially in summer. July 12–20. Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-341-7582,