Janis Hardy remembers watching a performance at the Guthrie Theatre when the end of an extremely long train of an opera singer's dress got caught in a door.

The performer, Barbara Aurora, had so mesmerized the audience with her soprano voice that no one noticed her slowly walking backward to the door to free her dress.

Aurora was known for taking risks on the stage and twice broke her nose while performing.

"She was famous for changing text in the middle of the show and she said it with such conviction," said Hardy, a mezzo-soprano. "She was a loose cannon on stage, which made it riveting for the audience."

Barbara Aurora died Jan. 30 at her home in Minneapolis at the age of 85. Her last name was Brandt, but she went by Aurora later in life. A memorial service is set for 7 p.m. June 7 at Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park.

The Twin Cities was lucky to have a great singer like Aurora in its budding opera scene in the late 1960s, friends said.

"She was a very flexible singer with a gorgeous high soprano range and a sound that you never got tired of listening to," said renowned conductor Philip Brunelle, who was director of Center Opera, as the Minnesota Opera was known at the time. "You could tell she loved an audience and an audience loved her. As she sang, people were drawn in to her because of her very honest presence."

Aurora started performing while growing up in Battle Creek, Mich., and graduated from Michigan State University with a vocal performance degree, said her son, Gean Halstead.

She moved to Minnesota in 1954, with her then-husband Boyd Halstead, whom she later divorced, and had three children.

Living in a small town on the Iron Range, she won regional Metropolitan Opera auditions and moved to Minneapolis in the mid-1960s. Aurora went on to star in a number of operas in Minnesota, captivating audiences with her dynamic voice, and toured across the country performing in cities from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco.

A then-young Hardy performed alongside Aurora for about 12 years, learning from the seasoned expert.

In one of her shows, Hardy saw what she had never seen before. Aurora moved the audience so much that they stood and clapped emphatically during a brief pause in the song, but before the show was over. An audience clapping in the middle of a show was unheard of, Hardy said.

"She committed so deeply to every character she played it was hard to keep your eyes off her on stage," Hardy said.

It was her voice that first caught the attention of her husband, Wesley Balk, who was artistic director at Center Opera. Balk went to the regional Metropolitan Opera auditions but was tired and decided to pack up before the last singer — Aurora — started.

Hearing her voice as he was walking to leave, he stopped dead in his tracks, turned and sat right back down, Hardy said.

In her off time, she taught thousands of students and, growing up, Halstead remembers hearing singing and voice exercises all throughout the house. Aurora also played the piano, and her creative flair passed down to her three children, who all played instruments.

"I'd be awestruck at her performing on stage," Halstead said. "To think that was my mother."

Aurora traveled for much of her adult life, moving back to Minnesota about 17 years ago to be closer to Halstead. But old age and dementia didn't hold her back. She sang in programs in her long-care term residence.

Hardy remembers driving with Aurora in the passenger seat, singing a folk song.

"I got goosebumps because the color of her voice was still there," Hardy said.

In addition to Halstead, Aurora is survived by daughters Alesia Panagiotides and Christa Halstead.