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New treasures from the Minnesota Opera

By February 21, 2019September 16th, 2023No Comments
Woman in green and red looking at yellow and black set piece in opera

Production photo for The Newest Little Opera in the World (photographer unknown), 1974.

The Performing Arts Archives recently received a treasure trove of new archival materials from the Minnesota Opera. These new acquisitions document the opera company’s more-than 50-year commitment to staging new works.

Founded in 1964, the Minnesota Opera began as the Center Opera, an organization that operated under the aegis of the Walker Art Center. Using the newly built Guthrie Theater, the company’s mission was to present small-scale chamber operas that placed equal emphasis on vocal and dramatic excellence (a novel concept in opera at the time!). Repertoire typically included new and contemporary works or innovative explorations of the more standard operatic repertoire.

Sheet music and printed notes for The Manchurian Candidate

Workshop notes and score for The Manchurian Candidate, 2014.

One highlight of the recent accruals includes a rare reel-to-reel video recording with snippets from the Minnesota Opera’s very first production, Masque of Angels, by local composer Dominick Argento. Premiered in 1964, the piece garnered much praise from local critics–and even captured the attention of notable music critics out east.

1964 Film reel container for Masque of Angels

Reel-to-reel recording of Masque of Angels, 1964.

The success of Masque of Angels led to several other important commissions over the next two decades, with works from Argento as well as composers Eric Stokes, Stephen Paulus, Libby Larsen, and Conrad Susa. Along with the Masque of Angels reel, the newly acquired archival materials include edited scores, workshop notes, photographs, and audio/video recordings for the following notable commissions:

  • The Newest Little Opera in the World (Wesley Balk/Philip Brunelle), 1973-1974
  • The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe (Dominick Argento), 1975
  • Black River & Transformations (Conrad Susa), 1972 & 1975
  • Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus (Libby Larson), 1989-1990
  • The Grapes of Wrath (Ricky Ian Gordon), 2007
  • The Manchurian Candidate (Kevin Puts), 2014-2015
  • The Shining (Moravec & Campbell), 2016
  • Dinner at Eight (William Bolcom), 2016-2017
Performers in costume singing in Transformations

Janis Hardy and Vern Sutton in Transformations, 1975 (photographer unknown).

Several of the more recent commissions are a direct result of the Minnesota Opera’s highly successful New Works Initiative, which supported the creation of Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer-Prize winning opera, Silent Night, in 2011.

For more information about the Minnesota Opera archives, or related collections in the Performing Arts Archives, please visit the Performing Arts Archives website, or contact Kate Hujda at


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