The busy blur of fall approaches. Before you're swept up, take advantage of some fun end-of-summer performances — Japanese drumming, a classic comedy and a picnic operetta — this week in Dakota County.
Sunday in Eagan, Mixed Precipitation performs "Agent Fidelio: A Picnic Operetta," a quirky spin on Beethoven's only opera, at Caponi Art Park. Set in the park's outdoor amphitheater, the show intersperses the drama with a sampling menu of locally sourced food.
In the adaptation of the 1805 opera, Sheriff Don Pizzaro Arpaio has thrown idealistic journalist Florestan in jail for treason. Florestan's wife, Leonore, joins an underground movement of secret agents and disguises herself as "Fidelio" in an effort to start an uprising and liberate the inmates. Lauren Drasler, who plays Leonore, said she took cues from the bumbling secret agent in Mel Brooks' "Get Smart" to inspire her performance.
"The characterizations are big," she said.
Drasler calls it "Jimmy Cliff with opera," as the show fuses operatic arias with reggae. The 16-member cast is backed by a chamber orchestra that includes accordionist Karen Majewicz of Dreamland Faces and Greg Byers of the Yes Let's Collective on cello.
Throughout the show, audience members snack on treats such as watermelon bites with goat cheese from a menu created by local chefs Nick Schneider (Spoonriver and Café Brenda) and Chris Roberts (Piccolo and Patisserie 46). The food corresponds with the action and setting, so courses include a vegetable rundown, a traditional Jamaican stew "served in a dish like you would get in prison," Drasler said, and a "pickled ramp revenge dish."
"I think the food is my favorite character in the performance," she said.
Drasler said people have told her, "It's like opera for people who hate opera," she said. "It's mostly just a ton of fun."
"Everybody Loves Opal"
The comedy "Everybody Loves Opal" finishes its run on the Lakeville Area Arts Center stage with a 2 p.m. performance on Sunday. In the play, Opal Kronkie, a thrifty and obscenely sunny middle-aged recluse and hoarder, hangs her tea bags on a line to re-use and constantly peruses the nearby dump for decorations for her ramshackle home.
"She just thinks the best of everybody," said Pege Miller, who plays Opal. "She never has a bad day. She's just as ugly as a mud fence but doesn't really care because one thing about being ugly is that you don't have to worry about losing your looks."
"She is what my character refers to as a congenital optimist," said Shawn Bakken of Lakeville, who plays the pedantic Professor Bradford, man of six college degrees and one of three con artists who undergo various attempts at murdering Opal in order to cash in on her life insurance policy.
Creating the set — flush with old Melmac plates, rabbit figurines, vintage typewriters and other knickknackery — was easy, Miller said.
"I just raided my basement," she said, "as did everyone else."
Mu Daiko at Schaar's Bluff
On Wednesday, the Mu Daiko drum group brings their gigantic Japanese-style drums to Spring Lake Park Reserve to perform their thunderous rhythms.
Traditionally, Taiko (Japanese for "drum") was used to solicit a bountiful harvest, said Dakota County Parks Outdoor Education Coordinator Autumn Hubbell.
Hubbell said that the prairie outside the Schaar's Bluff Visitor Center will be in bloom with purple coneflower and bergamot. "Right now," she said, "the colors of the prairie are predominantly purples and yellows."
"They'll be playing against the backdrop of the river bluffs," she said. "It will be beautiful in the evening there."
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.