Opera company soon to exit Mill City Museum stage

Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal for the Mill City Summer Opera's production of "The Barber of Seville" in July 2013.
Photo courtesy of the artist 2013

Mill City Summer Opera will soon be out of the Mill City Museum.

The summer opera company, which has been performing at the downtown Minneapolis museum since 2012, announced the change Thursday. It said the Minnesota Historical Society, which operates the museum among the ruins of the old Washburn A mill, had declined to extend the opera's contract past the current season.

The Historical Society's spokesperson, Jessica Kohen, said the opera's productions had consumed significant amounts of staff time during the museum's busiest season. She added that other costs — such as security, chair rental and cleaning — were not adequately reimbursed under the opera's contract.

Last year, she said, the Historical Society received about $36,000 from the opera.

Kohen said the Historical Society wanted to move toward more "mission-based" programs, but added, "We're working on what that might be."

The open-air Ruin Courtyard has been central to the opera company's identity. Its website proclaims, "Nowhere else will you find world-class opera in a nontraditional outdoor venue like the Mill City Ruins. ... We were founded in 2012 with a vision to provide second-to-none opera in an unmatched setting that's accessible to all, and have delivered on that vision every year since."

In a statement issued by the opera, founder and board chair Karen Brooks vowed that the company would keep going.

"We are committed to continuing our successful track record of presenting critically acclaimed productions," she said. "With a strong board of directors, we look forward to a new era — one that will allow the company to explore new opportunities, directions and approaches."

The company's pending production of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" is set to open July 12 and perform at Mill City through July 24. The company is also presenting a two-person opera buffa, or comic opera, at the Icehouse bar and restaurant in Minneapolis. "La Serva Padrona" will perform July 15 and July 17.

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