MinnPost - May 14, 2019
by Pamela Espeland
Out of the Box Opera: “Acis and Galatea”
The opera was an abbreviated version of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea.” Presented by Out of the Box Opera, adapted from a tale in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” it tells of a sea nymph named Galatea who falls in love with a mortal shepherd named Acis. Meanwhile Polyphemus, the cyclops son of the god Poseidon, is in love with her. The “Happy we” song of the lovers is followed by Polyphemus’ jealous rage, the murder of Acis, Galatea’s grief and her realization (thanks to a reminder from the chorus) that she has the divine power to make Acis immortal by turning him into a fountain.
Out of the Box and its artistic director, David Lefkowich, are all about changing the experience of opera. So this was Handel presented in a new way. The first scene, Acis and Galatea’s engagement party, took place in the airy, artsy A-Mill lobby, with the singers weaving through the audience. The second, in which Polyphemus rants and fumes, was set in a high-ceilinged brick and stone room (an old storage bin?). Polyphemus played a mean electric guitar; a nod to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” brought laughs from the crowd.
The third scene, in which Acis meets his end, occurred in the A-Mill’s underground tunnels, reached by metal stairs. For the fourth, we went to the rooftop with its million-dollar views of the Minneapolis skyline and the Pillsbury’s Best Flour neon sign. As the wind whipped the flames in the metal firepit, Galatea sang of drying her tears.
The singing was beautiful, with soprano Siena Forest, tenor David Walton and baritone Andrew Wilkowske as the main characters. Hearing a trained voice from five feet away is thrilling. All three performances sold out; each was limited to 60.
Overheard on one of the elevators that moved us from scene to scene: “This is fun. We’ve never been to an opera before.” That’s what Out of the Box wants: new, curious ears. Creators of the Diva Cage Match (operatic arias in a boxing ring) and what it calls “fusion events” — opera mixed with gospel, jazz, and soul, with more variations to come — OOTB shakes up our expectations of a night at the opera.