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Rochester singer takes center stage at the Minnesota Opera

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KTTC) – Mayo High School graduate, Andrew Stenson, is showing off his incredible talent at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.

The opera singer is starring as Fadinard in the Ordway’s latest production, The Italian Straw Hat. Stenson’s voice has taken him around the world for nearly a decade, but this is his first starring role in his home state of Minnesota.

Opera singer Andrew Stenson talks about his nearly 10-year career with reporter Shannon Rousseau

“When I was in high school I did everything I could possibly do in terms of performing arts,” said Stenson. The 2004 Mayo High School graduate participated in his school choir, Southtown Singers at Mayo, local musical theater productions, and the Honors Choir of Southeast Minnesota. It was during his high school career that he decided he wanted to pursue a career in music, though at that time it wasn’t performing.

After graduation, Stenson moved to Decorah, Iowa to study music therapy at Luther College. “I was a terrible psychology student, but I had a great, ambitious young voice teacher who really lit a fire under me to pursue singing as a career.”

During his freshman year, Stenson took a trip to the Twin Cities to see a performance of Carmen at the Ordway; his first opera. “That’s really what sealed the deal for me. It was this incredible production.” What stood out the most was the final scene when Carmen dies. The way the director and performers portrayed that scene, “dramatic” and “over-the-top” as Stenson described, moved him visually. “I thought, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! I have to do this!” That’s when Stenson changed his major from music therapy to performance.

Stenson graduated from Luther College in 2008. After that, he moved to Cincinnati to pursue his master’s degree. He later joined an apprentice program at the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico in 2009. From there, he studied at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for three years and has traveled around the world. “Germany, Ireland, England, and France,” to name a few.  Stenson also went to places he never thought he’d end up: Tennesse, Texas, Chicago, and Seattle. The budding star jokes that he’s starting to lose track of how many places he’s been.

Andrew Stenson plays Fadinard in The Italian Straw Hat

The performer’s latest gig at the Minnesota Opera isn’t his first leading role, but it is the first time he’s performing back home in Minnesota. “It’s fantastic. I’ve been really humbled by the outpouring of support from my community and friends.”

Stenson’s parents have attended every performance at the Ordway, and their energy is infectious. “My mom has a very distinctive laugh, and I can hear her…. That’s very comforting to me.”

He describes his role as Fadinard as “something else,” noting that he’s onstage for all but 15 minutes of the two-hour and 20-minute production. “I’m running around left right. I sweat through two shirts… I drink probably a liter and a half. It’s taxing, but it’s really rewarding.” Basically, it’s like running a 10K every day for a week.

The Minnesota Opera describes The Italian Straw Hat as an uproarious comedy. “Groom-to-be Fadinard gallops around Paris on his wedding day in search of a straw hat to replace the one his horse has inadvertently eaten. The bright and breezy score perfectly captures the increasingly ridiculous situation that rides on the edge of chaos. After seeing this 1950s madcap romp, you’ll never look at a hat—or a night at the opera—the same way again!”

Andrew Stenson and the chorus perform a scene from The Italian Straw Hat at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul

Five performances span out over the course of a week, January 26 through February 3. Tickets are still available for Saturday’s show, but Sunday is sold out.

When the curtain comes down for the final time on Sunday, Stenson will head back to his current home in Boston for two weeks before heading off to another production, The Magic Flute, in Utah on February 18. “The work never ends. There’s always something you can improve on, and by constantly improving you will stay at the top of your game.”

Shannon Rousseau

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