Sunday, September 19, 2010

Looking back: When opera was a "gas" in Duluth...

Great spotting by Paul Lundgren and Susie LeGarde Menz in Perfect Duluth Day Blog (link HERE) of a 1965 ad for the opera performance of (I think) La Traviata, held in the Duluth Denfeld Auditorium. This artistic rendering (below)–including the architectural beauty of the Denfeld auditorium–was featured in a Time Magazine advertisement for Northern Natural Gas Co., now Enbridge. They featured the (then) Duluth Symphony Orchestra performances in their advertising campaign. This ad made quite a hit in Duluth when it came out, with national focus on our local community arts. I discovered that you can purchase this lovely art poster for $9.95 through E-Bay natural gas collectables (HERE).
Northern Natural Gas Company ad in Time Magazine circa 1965
The text in small print in the ad reads as follows: "There is music in Duluth. Good music. There is the majestic, the tragic and the comic music of grand opera … sung by the world’s greatest artists … supported by Duluth’s own wealth of talent. There is the symphony. The full and glorious sounds of Beethoven … the powerful and challenging sounds of Wagner … the beautiful sounds of all the world’s good music … performed by the Duluth Symphony Orchestra which continues to build its fame as it starts its thirty-third season. Duluth offers you music. It offers all that a great city should. As one of America’s busiest ports, it’s a thriving market with productive labor and outstanding transportation facilities. And it has abundant natural gas, piped in by the Northern Natural Gas Company and distributed by the City of Duluth Gas Department. For information about plant location opportunities, write to Area Development Department, Northern Natural Gas Company, Omaha, Nebraska."

This scene depicts one of many grand operas presented at Denfeld by the Duluth (before it became Duluth-Superior) Symphony association and before the DECC Auditorium opened in 1966, after which the operas were presented there until around the mid-70s, then discontinued. The operas featured the Duluth orchestra, local soloists in minor roles, and leads sung by prominent opera singers of the day, mostly from New York. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim
I never realized Duluth had a history of opera performances. Interesting. I made it to the Met spring tour performances at Northrup Auditorium in the cities a couple of times before they were discontinued.
All I get now is an occasional performance on public TV.
Erick H

Jim Heffernan said...

Hi, Erick -- Yes, I'm old enough to remember, and have attended, some of the Symphony's productions, mainly at Denfeld before the DECC was built. The Symphony got out of the opera business in the mid-70s. Opera is pretty hard to sustain in Duluth. Current companies are struggling too. Like you, I took in a few Met performances at Northrup -- always exciting. I've gone to a few of the current simulcast theater presentations from the Met in the last couple of years. Very nice, but not quite like being there. Thanks for writing. -- Jim