TOWER- Mixed Precipitation presented their unique performance of the Odyssey last week, with stops at Carefree Living in Ely, the Tower Farmers Market, and Early Frost Farms in Embarrass.The Tower …
TOWER- Mixed Precipitation presented their unique performance of the Odyssey last week, with stops at Carefree Living in Ely, the Tower Farmers Market, and Early Frost Farms in Embarrass.
The Tower Farmers Market proved a perfect match. The market was celebrating its annual children’s day, so many families had stopped by and then stayed to watch the show.
The “pop-up” show was one act from their three-act main show. Lasting about a half hour, it was the perfect length for the audience, which ranged in age from babies to grandparents. The next day the group performed the full-length show to a larger crowd at Ericka and Jack LaMar’s Early Frost Farms in Embarrass.
Before the performance in Tower began, they explained that the opera would include songs sung not in English, but not to worry, their props included simple translations of the music, which featured pieces from Claudio Monteverdi’s 1639 opera, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland) blended in with music that you would find at a small-town carnival, including bluegrass tunes and some Dolly Parton favorites. So, imagine an opera, with music performed not by an orchestra, but by the instruments you’d find in a bluegrass band. There were opera singers wearing denim shirts and cowboy boots. And sometimes it was hard to decide who was smiling harder, the audience or the performers.
The set included both small and large paper-mache puppets, created just for this traveling show. There was the giant one-eyed monster Cyclops and the many-armed creature Scylla. Smaller-sized puppets representing Odysseus and his crew sailed along on the back of the pickup truck.
This is the fourth summer that Mixed Precipitation has toured the Iron Range since its inaugural tour in 2016.
The opera company included professional singers and musicians, many well-known in the Twin Cities arts scene. But they all said they enjoy visiting the Lake Vermilion area in the summer. At least two of the performers had families with cabins on the lake, so they were very familiar with the area.
Soprano Momoko Tanno performed the role of Penelope. She has performed with Theater de la Jeune Lune, as well as with the Heart of the Beast puppet theater. Singer/actor Rodolfo Nieto, who has performed with the Minnesota Opera and Theater Latte Da, played Ulysses. There were banjo, cello, and fiddle players. Youth performers Akane and Andrew Niemi, Momoko’s children, played numerous roles. And local youngsters, Sova and Etta Meyer, joined the company for this Iron Range tour.
The show and summer statewide tour received major funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Theater organizers said such funding is essential to creating paying jobs for Minnesota artists and allows them to bring free and low-cost art events to small towns and other non-traditional venues around the state. The performances often include food, and this year the offerings were a bit different due to the pandemic. For the farmers market show, audience members were given cookies on a stick, purchased from a small bakery. In past years, performances included snacks of fresh vegetables grown right at the location of the show.
Learn more at www.mixedprecipitation.org.