Ever since the old days, Northlanders have been enthusiastic about opera. The old Met always made a stop in Duluth on their national tour. Duluth was home to several bona fide opera house auditoriums of which only one remains intact: The Denfeld High School Auditorium. It was here that in 1991, Northland Opera Theatre Experience created its first full scale opera. Duluth audiences were treated to many of the great opera classics including Carmen, Der Freischutz, Madama Butterfly, Fidelio, La Boheme, Tosca and Il Trovatore. In 1998, N.O.T.E. closed the curtain on its eighth and final performance, The Tales of Hoffman, starring Bill Bastian, Char Taylor, Rachel Inselman, Ruth Jacobson, Hope Crawford Koehler, Joe Reed, Bill Koehler, John Sippola, Ann Cravero and Bryan Maus and conducted by Maestro Keith Swanson.
During the years that followed, opera lovers in the Arrowhead region asked when they might see a regional opera company return to our community. Colder by the Lake filled the gap intermittently, first with Les Uncomfortables in 2001 and 2002, and then with The Phantom of the NorShor in 2004. But still there was no company in the area devoted solely to producing opera. In response to this need, in October 2004, Ruth Jacobson gathered many of the original founders of N.O.T.E. and reformed the company as a non-profit corporation under a new name: Lyric Opera of the North.
With the help of an Arrowhead Regional Arts Council grant, beginning in 2005, LOON again presented opera to regional audiences using local resources and talent. Northern Minnesota is home to a remarkable concentration of cultural wealth: singers, orchestral, popular and ethnic musicians, artists, dancers, poets, writers, actors, and passionate supporters. LOON welcomes the opportunity to channel our many diverse local strengths and passions into collaborative efforts for all who love the grandest of the performing arts, opera.
Timeline of LOON’s history
1991 — Northern Opera Theatre Experience (NOTE) is founded by Laurie and William Bastian. First production: Il Trovatore
1992 — La Bohéme
1993 — Carmen
1994 — Tosca
1995 — Der Freischutz
1996 — Madama Butterfly
1997 — Fidelio
1998 — The Tales of Hoffman (NOTE’s final production)
2001 — Colder by the Lake produces Tyler Kaiser’s Les Uncomfortables (libretto by Margi Preus & Jean Sramek) with many members of NOTE’s roster. Ruth Jacobson starts talking about re-forming a local opera company.
2002 — Les Uncomfortables is reprised due to popular demand.
October 2004 — Ruth Jacobson forms a new 501(c)3 named Lyric Opera of the North (LOON). First production: A Die Fledermaus Gala Concert
2005 — Colder by the Lake produces The Phantom of the NorShor (lyrics by Margi Preus & Jean Sramek) with many of the same personnel.
2006 — LOON’s first staged production: The Magic Flute
2007 — A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2009 — Semele
2010 — Gala Benefit Concert; Amahl & The Night Visitors
2011 — Cavalleria Rusticana & Gianni Schicchi; The Mikado