Two local residents are performing in Minnesota Opera’s upcoming “Turandot,” billed as an exotic extravaganza with stunning pageantry.
Allison Schardin of Blaine and Grant Scherzer of Coon Rapids perform in the chorus of Giacomo Puccini’s theater spectacular, marking the final production of the opera company’s 50th anniversary season.
Set in imperial China, the story is about icy princess Turandot, who puts her suitors to the ultimate test. They must correctly answer three riddles to win her over. The wrong answer means death.
Metropolitan Opera soprano Irina Rindzuner and dramatic soprano Helen Todd, who is receiving raves nationally, alternate in the title role of the princess.
A ‘people person’
This is Schardin’s third production with the opera. She sang in the chorus of “Doubt” earlier this year and “Werther” last year.
This year in addition to her chorus part among about 60 other singers, she scored a small solo.
“I’m a people person,” she said about her passion for the art. “I love the sense of community, working to create something.”
But singing in such a grand scale opera has its demands. Investing a huge time commitment, learning Italian and the translation, practicing choreography, she said.
“This particular director (Renaud Doucet) is completely precise, exact movement on exact musical beats,” Schardin said.
Schardin, 27, has sung since about seven years old. She got her start as a child appearing in community theater at such venues as Hill-Murray, Children’s Theatre Company and the Guthrie. She started singing seriously about 10 years ago, when she began her studies at Concordia College in Moorhead.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in both music and communications from Concordia and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Minnesota.
In addition to the Minnesota Opera, she has performed at Skylark Opera, based out of St. Paul, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, The University of Minnesota’s University Opera Theatre and the Twin Cities Opera Guild.
The hours of rehearsal are long but the rewards are great for Schardin, who also works as a server at Kincaid’s restaurant.
“For me it’s been a very new experience,” she said. “I’ve never been in part of something on such a large scale with so many people and so many elements.”
His fifth show
Scherzer and Schardin attended college together at Concordia.
Scherzer, 27, a 2004 graduate of Blaine High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in music performance.
This is his fifth show singing in the chorus of the Minnesota Opera.
“I like all the people that I meet there,” said the baritone. “It’s fun to do really good music with fellow musicians.”
Appearing in the opera also satisfies his performance “bug,” allowing Scherzer to work his full-time job as a beer salesman in the Twin Cities, although, at times he ends up using vacation days when rehearsal hours are upped during the final week before a show’s opening.
Scherzer realized his vocal talents while singing in his high school choir. He has studied voice for 13 years, and is currently under the tutelage of John DeHann at the University of Minnesota.
He now sings mostly at weddings and churches. And with the Minnesota Opera. He must undergo auditions for each show. Past productions in which he has appeared are “La Traviata,” “Silent Night,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Anna Bolena.”
“It’s always a privilege to be selected to be in the show and get a chance to perform,” Scherzer said.
Despite demanding rehearsal schedules, requiring a juggling act to fit in their other daily duties and family responsibilities, both Scherzer and Schardin continue their art, one that rewards them with much joy.
“I think audiences are going to have a feast of the senses – all the sound. It’s going to be a stellar production,” Schardin said about “Turandot.”
Minnesota Opera presents “Turandot.” Sung in Italian with English subtitles. Director/choreographer Renaud Doucet. Minnesota Opera music director Michael Christie conducts the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. André Barbe is set/costume designer. Guy Simard is lighting designer. April 13-April 21. Tickets $20-$200. Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul. For more information, visit www.mnopera.org or call the ticket office at 612-333-6669.
Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]