BWW Review: Mozart Mashup by Mixed Precipitation in their 11th annual Picnic Operetta

BWW Review: Mozart Mashup by Mixed Precipitation in their 11th annual Picnic OperettaMix Mozart with 80's New Wave hits, Roman intrigue with sports rivalries, a stinky but accurate Oracle whose all-seeing eyeballs are made of ping pong paddles studded with tennis balls, and five separate courses of yummy edible treats served to an audience that lounges on lawn chairs and picnic blankets, in a series of 14 different public gardens or farms over 8 weekends, and what do you have? MIxed Precipitation's 11th annual Picnic Operetta, of course, one of the most fun and inventive community art productions I've ever seen. Only in Minnesota.

THE CLEMENCY OF TITO'S TENNIS CLUB is the wacky title of a thoroughly enjoyable performance. If opera strikes you as pompous or pretentious, this production will fix that in a hurry. But make no mistake: it is well sung by a cast of highly trained adults with an accompanying ensemble of kids. The standout voice, to my ear, was Anna Hashizume's lush and apparently effortless mezzo in the role of Sesto. Mozart's music is sung in Italian, with translations provided by scrolls or poster boards with large lettering manipulated by the cast. We are forewarned by artistic director Scotty Reynolds that the plot will be over the top, as befits opera. These artists take the music seriously, though!

The singers are accompanied by three busy live musicians who play a wide array of instruments (at least seven, by my count) in an even wider array of styles. Led by music director and arranger Gary Ruschman, they remain undaunted while shifting from Mozart to Pat Benatar and Yaz and back. Arias and duets from Mozart's score are truncated to single verses, and I wished that kind of radical trimming had been thoroughly done to the more modern tunes, but the whole manages to take around 90 minutes. It's very family friendly.

There isn't an intermission, but there are five moments where the cast introduces a bite, an amuse bouche, that is then passed around on trays to the audience by a culinary staff that is assembling these treats under a canopy on the open air site. These are funny and clever and tasty. For instance, after Tito (the Emperor Titus) is believed to have perished in a fire, we are served "Charred Ratatouille on a Stick." Like I said, only in Minnesota.

Generosity of heart, and the forgiveness that it produces, are central to the denouement of this libretto. The whole improbable intrigue, complete with illicit romance, tennis elbow, an assassination plot, betrayal, etc., concludes with a happy ending.

Easy colorful modern day costuming (variations on tennis togs with the addition of toga type roping) marries with fun staging to adapt to the many different outdoor venues where the show takes place on weekends throughout August and September. Check the Mixed Precipitation website for locations and to reserve tickets. And know that no one will be turned away for lack of means: this is radically inclusive, skillful community arts work, designed to be accessible to all folks who are willing to relax together, share a bite, and have a good time without taking themselves (or the arts!) too seriously.

Photo credit: Clare Nieto

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From This Author Karen Bovard