Birge's Picks

Jorja on my mind — and Carmen, too

Former Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis is devoting her career now to teaching. Kimberly Hsu

May 09, 2022

In 1989, Jorja Fleezanis became the second woman in history to assume the concertmaster position of a major U.S. orchestra. She remained with the Minnesota Orchestra for 20 years, the longest-tenured concertmaster in the orchestra's history. Jorja moved on to build a distinguished teaching career at Indiana University. However, her innovations continue to thrive in Minnesota with a biennial commission of new music through the Michael Steinberg & Jorja Fleezanis Fund. The fund was created in memory of Jorja’s husband, the extraordinary music critic and author Michael Steinberg, whose passion was new music. The latest commissioned piece, Jessica Meyer’s Where You Love From, is a setting of text by the 13th-century poet Rumi, performed by Jorja Fleezanis (violin), Jessica Meyer (viola), Anthony Ross (cello), Brian Mount (percussion) and Stephen Yoakam (narrator). It’s the next chapter in a long-running love story built on great music and debuts Saturday in Minneapolis.

Running Thursday through May 22, Carmen is back at the Minnesota Opera, which has a storied history with Bizet’s masterpiece. Its 1991 production launched the career of mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, who became one of the great Carmens of her generation. Now Graves returns, not to sing but to direct the Minnesota Opera production. Run, don’t walk, because tickets are limited. If it’s sold out, you can hear the May 12 performance broadcast live on YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio. And regardless of your plans, be sure to brush up on the plot with Andy Griffith.