Read what people have said about Out of the Box Opera’s past shows… and join the mailing list so you don’t miss the next show!



by Pamela Espeland

May 14, 2019


Photo by Dan Norman

Photo by Dan Norman

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.

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'Action-packed' opera invites patrons to wander Minneapolis' historic Pillsbury A-Mill

The tragedy of “Acis and Galatea” brings the production through the A-Mill’s spooky underground tunnel, originally designed to generate hydroelectric power for the mill’s flour-making machinery. That’s where Polyphemus murders Acis, pairing the dastardly act with its visual counterpart in the murky confines of a tunnel still used today to transport water to the Mississippi River.

“It’s a space that’s mostly unknown to even the residents who live in the building,” Lefkowich explained. “It felt like tragedy could happen there on an operatic scale and I felt I had to include it.”

A total of four locations within the A-Mill are used for Lefkowich’s staging, with the production ending on the rooftop.

Galatea’s inner strength means her life is not completely ruined by the death of Acis, Lefkowich explained. “I’m constantly looking for pieces that have a strong female voice,” Lefkowich said, “where the character does not exist as part of a man and doesn’t need a man’s help to survive.”

Staging the final scene in the rooftop’s open air, he said, becomes a symbol of hope for Galatea’s future.

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by Terry Blain

May 10, 2019

Minnesota Daily

by Becca Most

February 11, 2019


Out of the Box Opera fused opera and gospel in a one-of-a-kind performance on Saturday night.

Out of the Box Opera company is known for being avant-garde.

So, as opera-lovers filled one of the Weisman Art Museum's main galleries for a sold-out opera/gospel fusion event on Saturday night, many didn’t wholly know what to expect.

“Traditionally, opera happens in an opera house and you have a proscenium stage and an orchestra, and that’s been our only definition of opera up until this point,” said founding artistic director David Lefkowich. “Out of the Box takes the idea of opera and turns it on its head.”

By creating a set list that included gospel classics like “Glory” and “Oh Happy Day” alongside opera arias like “Addio del Passato” and “Nessun Dorma,” Out of the Box Opera challenged preconceptions about traditional music genres while spotlighting the fluidity of music as a medium.

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Mill City Times

by Claudia Kittock

Feb. 17, 2019


Opera Gospel Fusion

Noah Eisenberg and Jim Berman, opera aficionados and great friends, have spent decades of their friendship going to operas and delighting in the wonder of the sights and sounds of opera. As time progressed, Noah and Jim discussed a mutual concern about how to introduce opera to younger people and by introducing it, make sure to show the humor, the showmanship, and the skill needed to be a performer in the world of opera. So along with artistic director David Lefkowich, Noah and Jim formed Out of the Box Opera, whose mission is to bring opera to new audiences in new ways.

After several very successful shows, the idea was hatched to have an opera fusion event. J.D. Steele was a judge in the first Out Of the Box Opera Cage Match, so he became part of this discussion and suggested an Opera Gospel Fusion, featuring the Mill City Singers, and opera stars. That is what happened on February 9th at the Wiseman Art Museum, because...what says opera and gospel more than a museum? Yes, creativity abounds at every turn.

Dominique Wooten and Alexandra Razskazoff were the featured singers, alternating arias with gospel songs sung by the Mill City Singers. Then came the fusions pieces, led by Tonia Hughes and J.D. Steele with the Singers singing back up in the choruses.

It was a sold-out performance with an enthusiastic audience, and the evening ended with a rendition of “Oh Happy Day” that will not soon be forgotten. Even the audience joined in, as it was impossible to resist the magic of the evening.

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by Pamela Espeland

Oct. 13, 2018

Diva Cage Match founder strives to make opera 'entertaining and accessible'

With Diva Cage Match, director David Lefkowich goes to battle for a classic art form. 

In March 2015, David Lefkowich was at the University of Kentucky, directing “The Tales of Hoffmann.” It was the first time Jacques Offenbach’s opera had been presented there.

“The night before,” Lefkowich recalled, “there’s a basketball game with 30,000 people in attendance. The next night, opening night of my opera, there are 300 people.

“But that’s not the worst part. The worst part was people congratulating themselves on having that many people come. And I thought — this is a problem. Both of these things are exciting in their own right. But one has 30,000 people and a lot of money behind it. The other has 300 and a lot of gumption behind it.

“I got obsessed with this idea of competition, and how opera is like an Olympic sport. I started thinking, ‘What’s a place where competition exists and opera could be harmonious with that?’ Because opera doesn’t belong just anywhere.

“Then somebody mentioned Uppercut Boxing Gym, and I went there, and I thought — this is an operatic space. Not in a traditional sense, but it feels dramatic.”

That was the moment Diva Cage Match was born. In October 2017, six young sopranos in makeup and gowns gathered at Uppercut. Two by two, they faced off in the ring before a sold-out crowd and a panel of celebrity judges that included Dessa, J.D. Steele and operatic baritone Lucas Meachem. They sang. They postured. But first, they had to climb through the ropes.

Lefkowich was master of ceremonies. “The moment before we started, I laughed and thought, This is either going to kill my career, or it’s going to be the start of something exciting.” Before long, “people were whooping for Wagner.” And these were not Wagnerphiles, he said. They took a chance on something new because it sounded like fun.

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Pioneer Press

by Nancy Ngo

Oct. 19, 2018

Intimidated by opera? Diva Cage Match could be your ticket

Opera doesn’t have to be expensive, serious and intimidating. It can be affordable, fun and approachable, and that’s the idea behind this weekend’s pop-up opera event Diva Cage Match 2.0 from local group Out of the Box Opera.

Artistic director David Lefkowich, whose experience includes productions at both the Minnesota Opera and Mill City Summer Opera, said part of the reason Out of the Box Opera formed was to give audiences additional ways to experience opera — and attract new audiences.

“You can attend this performance as an opera lover or an opera novice. It lets you experience opera without it being a traditional opera performance,” he said. “For the first time opera-goer, they’re really being treated to a feast to sample a bunch of different operas all under two hours. But for the experienced opera-goer, they’re getting treated to hearing stars of the up-and-coming American opera singers.”

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WCCO Mid-Morning

Oct. 19,2018

WCCO Mid-Morning News for Diva Cage Match 2.0

Featuring David Lefkowich, Lara Bolton, and Danielle Beckvermit

WCCO Mid Morning

Mill City Times

Sept. 21, 2018

by Merle Minda

Out of the Box Opera Enters 3rd Year with Reboot of “Diva Cage Match 2.0”

First-Ever Season Planned for 2018-2019 

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.

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Mill City Times

January 28, 2018

by Merle Minde

Out of the Box Opera to Present Fusion Evening of Opera, Jazz and Soul

Innovative opera company Out of the Box Opera presents Live at the Weisman, another evening of operatic adventure, Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm. The Fusion Series includes several iconic musical styles fused into one fantastic evening of music, - a mashup of opera, jazz, soul and whatever is in between.

“The program includes Puccini to Gershwin to Mozart to Stevie Wonder: a musical journey exploring the best of each genre and celebrating music,” says Out of the Box artistic director David Lefkowich.

Performers include singers/special guests: Chris Colmenero, tenor; Clara Osowski, mezzo soprano; Brittany Ann Robinson, soprano; bass Ben Sieverding and opera/musical theater performer Dom Wooten. Musicians include Lara Bolton, piano/arrangements; Doug Little, saxophone, and Nate Babbs, drums.

Already known for creating uniquely delightful musical experiences, Out of the Box Opera last performed Diva Cage Match, a soprano sing-off, in October 2017 at the Uppercut Boxing Gym in NE Minneapolis. With “Opera for New Audiences” as its mantra, Out of the Box Opera is led by artistic director David Lefkowitz, well-known to Twin Cities’ opera audiences for his six years leading Mill City Summer Opera to high achievement. This new program has been co-conceived by David Lefkowich and Lara Bolton.




Mill City Press

by Claudia Kittock

Sept. 9, 2017

Have you ever seen a cage match? Me neither! Do you know what a cage match is? Well, I had to look it up.  According to, a cage match is: “An event in which wrestlers battle in an enclosed location, escaping over the top to win!” I’m sure you are asking yourself why Claudia Kittock, who writes about non-profits in the Mill District, is writing about a cage match. Great question!!

Noah Eisenberg and Jim Berman, opera aficionados and great friends, have spent decades of their friendship going to operas and delighting in the wonder of the sights and sounds of opera. As time progressed, Noah and Jim discussed a mutual concern about how to introduce opera to younger people and by introducing it, make sure to show the humor, the showmanship, and the skill needed to be a performer in the world of opera. So along with artistic director David Lefkowich, Noah and Jim formed Out of the Box Opera, whose mission is to bring opera to new audiences in new ways. 

David conceived of the idea for the cage match as the perfect fusion of world-class opera and competitive sports. Next, they sought out a venue that would take the cage match concept to a younger audience. The Uppercut Boxing Gym in the heart of the Northeast Minneapolis’ Arts District provided the perfect setting. Opera in a boxing gym? As you can tell, these are wildly creative men who think way outside any known box!

Come to Uppercut Boxing Gym in Northeast Minneapolis on October 28 to watch as six opera stars compete in a three-round, knockdown, drag out fight to be crowned the ultimate Opera Diva Champion. Experience a sensational night of singing, featuring an unbelievable display of vocal fireworks by some of the top young operatic talent from around the country. With celebrity judges DessaJD Steele, and RT Rybak, Diva Cage Match puts you in the front row for the sing off of the century.  


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