It is often said that life imitates art.

While perhaps unintended, a Minnesota arts company found this to be true last weekend.

As Women’s Marches took place across the country, Minnesota Opera opened “Diana’s Garden” at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

While the show’s central theme is love, artistic director Peter Rothstein set in the show in the 1950s, an era were women began to reclaim their bodies and rights.

Leah Patridge, who plays the title character, made her debut with the Minnesota Opera and spoke about how the company, especially through performances like this, helps keep the art form alive.

“Diana’s Garden” tells the story Diana the goddess of chastity. In Vicente Matin y Soler’s opera, Diana becomes the object of Cupid’s affection. In Peter Rothstein’s version, the show is set in the 1950s. This is said to add a big of social commentary to the show. Tell me, what do you think setting the show in the 1950s adds to the storyline?

Patridge: The 1950s were a time when women were realizing they could do much more with their lives and they were coming into their own, leading into the equal rights movement of the 1960s. Setting this opera during the 1950s helps frame the story of how Diana comes to break down her rigidity and move toward freedom of love and expression. It’s fun to see Diana all pent up and sewn into these structured, very tailored suits and then as she falls in love she becomes the 60s flower child.

I think this is a transition that can be seen in any decade when someone falls in love. There is often a lack of inhibitions. Tell me, how would you describe Diana in three words?

Patridge: Sexy, frustrated, goddess.

While this is your first opera with Minnesota Opera, you have been performing for quite some time. What about this particular show do you still find challenging?

Patridge: The libretto by the famous librettist Da Ponte contains elements of magic and supernatural powers because Diana is a goddess. Setting the opera in the 1950’s means we have to suspend belief a little bit and audience will have to look at these elements as metaphorical aspects of the inner workings of the character rather than literal super powers. I also have a wonderfully demanding aria in Act 1. It is full of leaps and fast notes. It’s like doing cartwheels with my voice. I love it!

I can see how audiences would have to suspend their belief that magic exists outside the world of gods and goddesses. For this show, what is your favorite number?

Patridge: The final section of the opera is a satisfying musical end to the whole production and story. It really captures the energy of the whole narrative and concludes everything quite nicely. I don’t want to spoil it, though, so you’ll just have to come and see the production!

Sounds intriguing! Why else should audiences come? What would audiences be surprised to learn about the production?

Patridge: There’s a beautiful dog in the production that I walk in with in my opening scene.

As previously stated, this is your debut with Minnesota Opera. What excites you about performing with the Minnesota Opera?

Patridge: I’m excited to be making my debut with this wonderful company. Minnesota Opera is a very important American opera company because they always seek to do innovative projects, which keeps opera alive and relevant in society. I am very fortunate to be here and have always been very interested in the type of work that goes on here.

Part of being with the Minnesota Opera means spending time in wintry Minnesota! What are you looking forward to doing during your stay in here?

Patridge: I’ve already been ice fishing and loved it­­—it’s a great way to take a nap! I’m from Georgia, so Minnesota is a whole new world for me.

The Minnesota Opera’s performance of “Diana’s Garden” runs Jan. 26 through 29 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets cost $23 to $200. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Minnesota Opera online.

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