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Minnesota Opera comes to Red Wing

Bergen Baker instructs a choir class at Red Wing High School Monday Morning. Baker is working with students through part of the Minnesota Opera's three-week residency in Red Wing. (Republican Eagle photo by John Russett)

The sounds coming from the choir room Monday morning at Red Wing High School were not the typical melodies one might expect.

Bergen Baker was giving the students a lesson in the Italian language.

Baker, a Minnesota Opera teaching artist, was walking the students through the language of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro."

The room was eventually filled with the sounds of singing voices, but Baker said it was important to first understand the language and the meaning of the words on the pages of music.

Baker has been working with Red Wing High School students through interactive lessons, individual coaching and master classes as part of a three-week residency.

The residency will conclude with performances Oct. 25 and 26 at the Sheldon Theatre.

Baker said this residency differs significantly from residencies she has done in the past.

“It’s the largest collaborative effort that we’ve ever had in community education at the opera. And that’s really exciting,” she said.

Both performances are collaborations with the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra, the Red Wing Singers, the Red Wing High School Chorus and the Shattuck-St. Mary’s School Chorus.

Baker, along with her Minnesota Opera colleagues soprano Christie Hageman, tenor Brad Benoit and bass-baritone Rodolfo Nieto, will perform the solo parts for the performances.

The students will study opera choruses and perform with adult community members in two “Opera’s Greatest Hits” concerts.

“It’s all the makings of opera without costumes or a set, or anything like that,” Baker said.

Anne Wildenborg, who helped write the grant that was instrumental in making this happen, said having the opera come to Red Wing is a unique opportunity.

“It’s neat because these kids will be exposed, briefly, but these kids will be exposed to opera,” Wildenborg said.

She said getting the funding in place to have the opera come to Red Wing has been two years in the making.

A lot of planning goes into pulling together a residency of this magnitude, Baker said.

“It was getting people to work together,” Wildenborg, adding everyone involved is excited about this opportunity.

Baker said she hopes this residency creates a place where opera is appreciated, understood and loved.

“That’s really why I do what I do,” she said.

Selections for the performances will include arias and ensembles from Mozart to Verdi and Bizet to Bernstein.

The 2 p.m. performance Oct. 26 will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the theater’s renovation.

More information is available at