WILLMAR -- The story line behind the Minnesota Opera's current production of "Cinderalla" is very much about the combining of some very talented people:
Roxana Constantinescu, a "young Romanian mezzo'' whose voice has been likened to chocolate, is matched with tenor James Valenti.
They are part of a very comic take on "Cinderalla" as only the master of comedy, Gioachino Rossini of "The Barber of Seville'' fame, could compose.
Those who appreciate the arts in the Willmar area will enjoy knowing how the production has combined two very talented artists with local ties as well.
Andrew Wilkowske, baritone, has one of the leading roles in the production as Dandini, the hilarious valet to the Prince (John Tessler).
Christopher Franklin, is making his Minnesota debut as conductor for the production.
Both said they very are excited about their opportunity to be part of this production and to perform in Minnesota.
Wilkowske is a 1993 Willmar High School graduate who considers himself to be a product of the Willmar music program. "Without the teaching and guidance of people like De Anna Dorsey, Terry Brau, Tracie Hanson, Rolf Anderson and Steve Trochlil, I would not have had the opportunities or the inclination to pursue music as a career,'' Wilkowske wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune.
He has performed frequently with the Minnesota Opera, including his roles in "The Marriage of Figaro," "Grapes of Wrath" and "The Magic Flute." He made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York earlier this year.
Wilkowske remains a regular visitor to Willmar, where his parents Doug and Mary Wilkowske have made their home. He's also offered his talents over the years to benefit the local music program.
Franklin grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., but spent many summers as a youth on Eagle Lake just north of Willmar, where his parents, Don (a native of Willmar) and Esther Franklin, maintain a cabin. Franklin has participated as a violinist in the annual hymn sings at the First Covenant Church in Willmar.
Franklin has other Minnesota roots as well, having graduated from Macalaster College. His career trajectory took him to Italy, where he conducted at several of the major Italian opera houses. He has also conducted with a variety of major orchestras across the globe, including the Royal Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony and the National Philharmonic of Russia.
The Minnesota Opera's production of "Cinderalla'' is described as a "rollicking rendition of a fairy tale favorite.'' Performances were held Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 and continue tonight, Saturday and Sunday. For additional information visit http://www.mnopera.org.