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Red Wing seniors team up with Minnesota Opera

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Voices of Opera rehearsing a song from "Carmen" at the Sheldon Theatre.2 / 2

Senior citizens are taking the stage this month to showcase their love of opera.

Voices of Opera is a new initiative by the Minnesota Opera aiming to bring older singers back to the stage and show them what it's like to be an opera singer.

"We have a huge range of programs for kids," said Matthew Abernathy, music director of Project Opera, the educational and training arm of the Minnesota Opera. "I figured if kids age 12 and 14 can do this, so can adults 55-plus."

Abernathy added that the Minnesota Opera is the only opera company in the country involving senior citizens in educational programing as vocalists.

"People think that only opera singers can perform opera, but that's not the case," explained Abernathy. "Singing can be taught, it's something that anyone can do."

Voices of Opera groups were organized this summer in Red Wing, Bloomington and Minneapolis. Auditions were not required to join, and the program was designed to involve singers from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. The 15-20 singers participating in Red Wing represent a few retired music educators as well as singers from local church choirs.

As the only pilot program meeting outside the metro, Red Wing was chosen because of the Sheldon Theatre's longstanding connection to the Minnesota Opera, going back to the 1970s, and as a response to community interest.

Red Wing's Voices of Opera group will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Sheldon Theatre. The performance will feature a vocalist from the Minnesota Opera accompanying the group for five songs, and performing solo for another five songs. Tickets are $5.

The Red Wing choir will combine with two others from Bloomington and Minneapolis to perform before the Minnesota Opera's "The Marriage of Figaro" on Friday, Nov. 17, at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul. Tickets can be purchased for $25-130.