Northern Lights Music Festival Season is a Go!

Leah Crocetto

The Northern Lights Music Festival announces its seventeenth season of bringing classical music to the Iron Range, much of it outdoors, from July 4 to July 27, 2020.

Topping the roster of events is the NLMF’s production of Puccini’s Tosca, one of the most popular operas in the repertoire. Originally set in Italy’s Bonaparte wars of the 19th century, Ecuadorian director Chia Patino will bring the setting forward to modern day Latin America, with revolutionaries and conservative forces battling as the opera’s detestable villain, Scarpia, sets his sights on the beautiful singer, Floria Tosca. A brilliant cast has been engaged, starring Cuban-American soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Tosca; Metropolitan Opera’s Daniel Sutin as the repellent Scarpia; and Metropolitan Opera’s Rafael Davila as the hero, Cavaradossi. The opera will be conducted by the Mariinsky Theatre’s Gavriel Heine. The health concerns of the public and the artists required a re-thinking of how to deliver this year’s program, and the opera venue has become the Chisholm’s Discovery Center Ampitheater. To keep the orchestra safe, patrons will see a distanced orchestra placed to the sides of the orchestra pit, with Plexiglas dividers between wind players and the rest of the orchestra. Singers have been staged to avoid close contact, and the NLMF Opera Chorus will rehearse in the open air, and record in the Miner’s Memorial in Virginia, distanced and separated by Plexiglas. This recorded track will be projected together with the live performance to avoid compromising the health of the singers. NLMF will present two performances of this masterpiece: on Friday, July 17 at 7:00 pm; and Sunday, July 19 at 7:00 pm. Audiences will be limited to 250 patrons per show, and seated in assigned, distanced seats. Patrons must be masked to enter the Discovery Center.

Artistic Director Veda Zuponcic stated, “We had hoped that the timing of our festival would coincide with the opening of some venues, and we were lucky that we had the flexibility to move some events further into the summer. We also hoped to provide a service to our free-lance musicians who have been without work since March, and perhaps even into the Fall. We have had well more than 150 requests to sing, play or provide technical support to our orchestral and operatic productions, and are happy that the grant money we received can help our artistic workers at this time. We feel we can be at the forefront of working with the new realities of healthy artistic performance and can present great art to the Iron Range public this summer. It must also be said that our artists will treat their presence in the community with respect and care.”

Opening the Festival will be two exciting outdoor performances to celebrate the Fourth of July. Festive Fourth will be produced at Virginia’s Olcott Park Bob Baldrica Bandstand, on the 4th at 4:00 p.m. with the NLMF Orchestra, conducted by Gavriel Heine, presenting Gershwin’s “American in Paris”, Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide”; a set of Sousa Marches as a tip of the hat to the day; and Opera Arias by the cast of NLMFOpera’s production of “Tosca.” The concert will be repeated on the Fifth of July at Chisholm’s Discovery Park Ampitheater, also at 4:00 p.m. The concerts are free to the public, and a limit of 250 patrons are allowed to be admitted to the venues, socially distanced and masked. Donations will be gratefully accepted.


Expanding the NLMF opera season has been a goal of the festival for some years, and what might be the most famous American opera, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium will be presented in Aurora on July 26 and 27, starring Metropolitan Opera star, Barbara Dever in the role of the fortune-teller, Baba. This thriller was one of the first televised operas, and has been performed more often than any other American opera except for Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors. Admittance to Mesabi East’s Veda Zuponcic Auditorium will be limited to 150 patrons, socially distanced in assigned seating.

NLMF was recently the recipient of a wonderful gift from the Friends of B’nai Abraham Cultural Center in Virginia, having been given the ownership of this landmark historical site. NLMF will continue to welcome community artists and historians to make presentations throughout the year and will present an extensive series of chamber music concerts at the old synagogue in July, including multiple performances of Beethoven’s chamber music in honor of the great composer’s 250th Birthday Year. Check the NLMF website, for updated information about the chamber music program. B’nai Abraham is air-conditioned; because of its small size, a maximum of 30 patrons will be allowed to be seated. In cooperation with the St. Louis County Historical Society, an art exhibit by Ely’s Albin Zaverl will be positioned in the lower level of BA.

Funding to this date has been made available by the Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Touring Program, Explore Minnesota Tourism, and many other corporate and private donors, including Minnesota Power Foundation, 3-M, Johnson & Johnson, IBM and Genentech. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Check the NLMF website for updated information and to purchase tickets:

Phone: 218-780-2292



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