U Opera Theatre student signs with Metropolitan Opera

opera at Ted Mann

Ali Haupt

opera at Ted Mann

Big productions are in place this year at the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre, as it kicked off its 2008-09 season this weekend with âÄúThe Rape of Lucretia.âÄù One member, however, is balancing his student life with a New York City career. University graduate student Brian Frutiger, who sang the Male Chorus role in âÄúLucretiaâÄù Thursday and Saturday nights, recently signed a contract with New YorkâÄôs Metropolitan Opera. FrutigerâÄôs contract with the Metropolitan is a first for University opera students, according to âÄúLucretiaâÄù Director David Walsh. Graduate students Brandon Miller and Maggie Lofboom , who also sang in the opera, said the Metropolitan is considered the pinnacle of most opera performersâÄô careers. Frutiger, whoâÄôs been singing since he was 5 years old, said it wasnâÄôt until college that he discovered opera. He was able to get into young artist programs that has propelled his career in the direction of opera ever since. âÄúI just got kind of lucky,âÄù he said. FrutigerâÄôs biggest challenge has been balancing his job with his personal life. His wife, who is a teacher, and the coupleâÄôs 9-month-old daughter currently live in Minnesota. âÄúMy wife has always been incredibly supportive,âÄù Frutiger said. âÄúI try to be very conscious about helping her out and giving her a break.âÄù Because Frutiger was in New York for six weeks performing for the Met, he was only able to rehearse his part in âÄúLucretiaâÄù for a couple of weeks, compared to the usual 10-week rehearsal period for University operas. Walsh said it was hard for Frutiger to get some of the detail that he wanted because of the short rehearsal period. The compensation, he said, is FrutigerâÄôs âÄúsheer stage experience and ability.âÄù âÄúEven if not all the subtleties that I wanted are there, the result is highly dramatic, and that counts as much as anything,âÄù Walsh said. Lofboom said Frutiger adds to the castâÄôs chemistry and work ethic. âÄúWe all respect each other and all really work together, which is vital in a show that’s so explosive,âÄù Lofboom said. âÄúThe Rape of LucretiaâÄù is a modern-day update of Benjamin BrittenâÄôs 20th-century period piece, originally set in 500 B.C. after the conquest of Rome by the Etruscans. The opera revolves around Lucretia, the wife of a Roman general, who is tragically taken advantage of by the son of an Etruscan warlord. Walsh said he chose to update the opera so the audience could engage more with the material and think about its themes long after they were done watching it. âÄúLucretia,âÄù which unlike many operas is sung entirely in English, is also the first opera at the University to use photo and video projections. âÄúIt’s an experiment, and I’m pretty happy with it,âÄù Walsh said. âÄúI think it really works with this piece.âÄù Lofboom and Miller are also members of an outreach group thatâÄôs been aiming to increase the number of people attending the opera. Miller was part of the Opera on Tap event this past May, for which opera students sang for free at the 400 Bar. The two students hope accessible operas such as âÄúLucretiaâÄù draw in more people to the art form. âÄúIt’s a really fabulous creative experience you don’t get in any other medium,âÄù Lofboom said. Walsh said he wants to attract audiences of all ages, especially younger ones, to their operas. âÄúI think we’ve got some really good voices in this program,âÄù Walsh said. âÄúPeople in the city might be surprised if they came out and saw our productions.âÄù