Opera star to be featured at Rhapsody at the Ridge

Metropolitan Opera star Cecilia Violetta Lopez, who will perform the role of Violetta in the Northern Lights Music Festival's opera production of "La traviata," will be among the featured guests performing and socializing with attendees of Rhapsody at the Ridge June 28. Tickets for Rhapsody, a fundraiser for the NLMF, will be sold through Monday.

BIWABIK — It’s not every day Iron Rangers have the chance to socialize over dinner with performers who have sung at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan, and other noted venues of the world.

But for the second time during the history of the Northern Lights Music Festival, that opportunity will be offered.

And attendees at the three-course meal will also be treated to arias sung by the stars of the festival’s opera production.

Rhapsody at the Ridge — a fundraising gala for the NLMF — will begin at 5:30 p.m. June 28 with a silent auction and social hour at Giants Ridge Event Center’s new chalet in Biwabik. The first Rhapsody was held two years ago.

Guests can begin the evening “with a glass of Prosecco as you enter, being serenaded by a jazz quartet,” said Suzanne Milner, Rhapsody committee member.

Dinner is set for 6:30 p.m., with the cast of this year’s production, “La traviata,” an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. Performances will follow.

Cost is $65 per person, and ticket sales run through Monday, June 17, only.

Tickets can be purchased at northernlightsmusic.org; from NLMF board members; or by calling NLMF at 218-780-2292, Giants Ridge at 218-865-8005, or Bradach Lumber at 218-229-3356.

“The magical night” will “kick off the weekend leading up to the Fourth of July, with family, friends and fun, with a bang,” Milner said.

Soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez, who sings the title role of Violetta in “La traviata,” will be joined by renowned performers, tenor Alex Richardson, who will sing the role of Alfredo, and baritone Jeff Mattsey, who will sing Germont.

As Lopez’s name suggests, she was born to sing the role of Violetta, Milner notes.

They all have been on stage at the Metropolitan Opera. Lopez, who has held more than 20 leading roles, was named one of Opera News’ “25 Rising Stars.”

“This is such a great opportunity,” said Patty Miller, Rhapsody committee member. “This is a time to come and have a gourmet meal and sit down and visit with singers who have performed at the Metropolitan Opera.”

The opportunity to “sit at tables and visit with” the stars is “powerful for our area,” she said.

It’s a privilege, Milner said, to “have such an incredibly high-quality opera in northern Minnesota.”

“La traviata” will open July 12 at the Veda Zuponcic Auditorium at Mesabi East in Aurora, named in honor of the Aurora native, pianist and professor who founded the NLMF. Performances will follow July 14 in the Chisholm High School auditorium, and July 15 at Washington Auditorium at the Ely High School.

“So many people travel to go to shows like this, and it’s right in our backyard,” Milner said.

“Giants Ridge is such a beautiful venue,” Miller added.

The evening’s appetizers and dinner will be prepared by Giants Ridge Executive Chef Kellie Hunter and her team.

Caprase skewers with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spinach, and balsamic reduction; and Tuscan skewers, with Swiss cheese, cantaloupe, honeydew, and sausage will be served during the social hour.

Dinner will start with a grilled pear feta artisan salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Attendees have a choice of three entrées: Blackened snapper with mango chutney served over creamy polenta braised collard greens; coffee rub tri-tip steak served with seafood fennel imperial stuffing spiced rum sauce and side of caramelized broccoli; or baked summer squash filled with black beans, corn, heirloom tomatoes and fennel, topped with fresh mozzarella and finished with rustic tomato white wine sauce and side of saffron potatoes.

Dessert is an apple-craisin crisp with bourbon caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

There will be more than 50 auction items valued at more than $6,300, ranging from “experience” packages to Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears tickets.

One of the packages is an authentic Georgian dinner with Gavriel Heine, who is maestro for “La traviata,” and his violinist wife, Eliso Gegeshidze, who will prepare the meal.

Others include private paddle board lessons with a lakeside barbecue and wood-fired sauna; a Chiqui’s Chocolate Factory personal tour with wine for six guests; and an “arts and eats” experience — “a day in the life of artist Marva Harms.”

Chiqui will also sell chocolates at the event, and Harms will sell and autograph, “The Pond Series — A Visual Journal” of Swan Lake, with 50% of the proceeds going to the NLMF.

Additional auction items include: A Naf Glass wave pitcher by Lake Superior Art Glass; wolly bowls by Carol Sundquist; handcrafted wooden spoons made from woods from throughout the world by Craig Stevens; a pink sapphire necklace by Rock the Jewelers; a Giants Ridge golf package; and conducting and piano lessons by Heine and Zuponcic.

“If someone would so like an auction item they can pay the guaranteed bid and it will be taken off the table and be theirs immediately,” Milner added.

“It takes a lot of money” to put on the NLMF, which runs from July 1 to 20, Miller noted.

This will be the festival’s 16th season of classical music and opera, performed at venues in eight cities from Hibbing to Ely to Aurora. There will be a full schedule of chamber music and orchestra concerts performed by some of the most gifted young artists in the world today, Milner said.

“It is so worth it to support something like this that brings so much culture and music to the area,” Miller said. “Each year it spreads further.” More towns will be hosting events this year, including a concert on the beach in Side Lake, she said.

Rhapsody at the Ridge will also honor Thomas Gillach, the founding president of the NLMF Board of Directors.

His guidance and years of service to the organization provided the foundation for the growth of the festival, Milner said. “He worked so hard. Veda thought it was time to honor him.”

“I’m humbled and happy to be able to help with this,” Miller said of the festival fundraiser.

The major sponsor of Rhapsody at the Ridge is Lakehead Constructors, which underwrites the expenses for the event, Milner said.

So, start the Independence Day holiday “off with a bang,” she added. “It will be a delightful event.”

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