Mill City Times

by Merle Minda on September 21, 2018


Out of the Box Opera enters its third year with a return of its wildly popular “Diva Cage Match 2.0”, to be held Saturday, October 20th at 7:00 PM at the Uppercut Boxing Gym, 1324 Quincy Street NE, in North East Minneapolis. Last year’s sell-out audience was treated to spectacular “Diva” performances by sopranos in full evening dress who climbed into the boxing ring to sing their hearts out.

“It’s hard for me to explain why you should see world-class opera singers strutting around a boxing ring competing to see who can hit the highest glass-shattering note. But trust me, this one’s worth it!” said former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

“Diva Cage Match exceeded my every expectation,” said singer, rapper and writer Dessa, a Diva Cage Match judge in 2017. “It was funny, stocked with impressive talent, and brilliantly staged.”

And “pure genius!” said renowned gospel singer J.D. Steele, who was also a judge in 2017.

As in last year’s performance, “Diva Cage Match 2.0” will feature six world-class sopranos competing against each other in a first-round sing-off, with the top finalists returning for a second round finale. Judges this year are American soprano Emily Pulley; Penumbra Theater veteran actor and singer T. Mychael Rambo and jazz singer Patty Peterson. Three singers will present the ‘home team’, locally-based divas, and three others come from various opera communities and companies around the nation. Pianist/accompanist is Lara Bolton. This year’s winner will be crowned by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. This production is co-sponsored by Ten Thousand Things Theater.

Artistic Director for the company is David Lefkowich, well-known to Twin Cities’ audiences for his stellar productions at both the Minnesota Opera and six years of artistic leadership of Mill City Summer Opera. “We are delighted at the Twin Cities’ response to Out of the Box and even more pleased to announce that our Diva Cage Match will also be performed in cities around the country, including Pittsburgh, PA; Austin, TX, and Detroit, MI,” said Lefkowich. “Out of the Box will also present its “Opera/Jazz/Fusion” production in New York City on November 28, 2018.”

For this first full-year season, Out of the Box Opera will present “Opera & Gospel" on February 9, 2019 in cooperation with the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus. “Opera & Gospel” is co-conceived and directed by Artistic Director David Lefkowich and J. D. Steele.

And in May 2019, "Heroes and Villains" a site-specific theatrical experience featuring a pastiche of music and famous operatic characters will be presented at the Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis. This production will wind throughout all levels of the Pillsbury A Mill, ending up on the roof overlooking the Mississippi River. A spring date for this event is still to be announced. As usual for Out of the Box events, a full bar will add to the casual atmosphere and fun.

Out of the Box Opera was founded in 2017 to explore opera in new and different ways, presenting opera concerts and pop-up performances in unique spaces with extraordinary talent.

David Lefkowich is Founding Artistic Director of Out of the Box Opera. David is well-known to Twin Cities audiences through his work with the Minnesota Opera and six years of artistic leadership of Mill City Summer Opera. David has also worked with the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera and Glimmerglass Opera, among others. David believes in presenting opera in new ways and notes, “Opera should be an experience and not an obligation.”

Noah Eisenberg is a Founding Producer of Out of the Box. Noah has been an active supporter of the performing arts, serving on the boards of Mill City Summer Opera, Weisman Art Museum, Children’s Theater and Illusion Theater. Jim Berman is also a Founding Producer of Out of the Box. Jim has been a life-long opera fan and formerly served on the New Projects Committee of Mill City Summer Opera.

Out of the Box will be presenting its opening performance of the 2018-2019 season with a return of “Diva Cage Match 2.0” on October 20, 2018 at the Upper Cut Boxing Gym, 1324 Quincy Street NE in North East Minneapolis. Performance at 7:00 PM; doors will open at 6:15 PM, onsite parking is free. This production is co-sponsored by Ten Thousand Things Theater. Out of the Box will also present “Opera & Gospel” on February 9, 2019 in cooperation with the Weismann Museum, University of Minnesota campus, co-created by David Lefkowich and well-known gospel singer J.D. Steele. A third performance scheduled for May 2019, date to be determined, titled “Heroes & Villains” will be presented at the Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis.