My Minnesota

In tune with the opera playing out on the prairie

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2011 - 2:23 PM

Gail Weber is the founder of TOSCA, a Metro arts magazine named after Puccini's opera. By some remarkable coincidence, it also stands for Theater, Opera, Shakespeare, Culture and Art, five things we never get around to seeing as much as we'd like. She's a Minnesotan by birth -- her parents immigrated from Iowa to Austin, where her mom was a school teacher, and her father a tool-and-die maker. Small-town Rockwell-style childhood, a career in the arts: very Minnesotan. With one interesting interval between the two.

"I practiced law for 23 years, but once I got a baby I discovered she wasn't willing to accommodate her schedule to the criminals out there. And I was feeling exhausted -- I wanted save everyone." She laughs. "That takes a lot of energy.

"I thought I'd practice law until I died, but my husband was starting his own law firm, my lease was up, and I wanted to be home. I wanted to do this." She taps the current issue of TOSCA. "Just as the print business was going south and the recession got tough on the arts, I thought I'd start a print business about the arts."

Why not head off out East and starve, like you're supposed to do when you want a career in the arts? "I've always loved Minnesota. We get a new blast of experience for the senses every seasons -- the food changes, the clothes change, the smells change. You get less restless because you know a change is always coming." Yes, our famous theater of seasons. But what else do we have?

"Great opera. I love opera. There could be more opera available; the city has a lot of opera fans, and people you wouldn't suspect are opera lovers. A criminal defense attorney a lot of people despise surprised me one day with his knowledge of opera."

Well, opera is full of crime. "It's full of potential cliets."

What if some phenomenon destroyed all art -- what would you stick around here for? "Then I would put on a show and direct and star in it. But I'd stay for the remarkable people. They're generally honest, and family-oriented. I like the self-deprecation. There's constant whining and complaining elsewhere, but not here; the most you'll get is (pauses) 'that's different.' "

C'mon, it can't be perfect. What would you change? "The winter doesn't bother me. Get rid of the mosquitoes." OK, you choose: we can either have more opera and more mosquitoes, or less opera and no mosquitoes. "Well, how many mosquitoes? Where are they, St. Paul or Edina?"

Everywhere. And there are lots of them.

Says the Minnesotan: "I'll take the mosquitoes and the opera."

JAMES LILEKS

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