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County natives join together for opera concert

Andrew Gangestad and Nathan Herfindahl, both Lake County natives, sang together for the first time last week with concerts in Silver Bay and Two Harbors. Photo by Mike Creger

"It's nice to be done," an exhausted Nathan Herfindahl said Friday night after a historic two-hour performance at Two Harbors High School. The opera singer from Silver Bay joined Two Harbors native and fellow opera singer Andrew Gangestad for the second of back-to-back concerts.

Audiences were thrilled to hear the two men who have travelled the world working in opera companies. Both have performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Oddly enough, Thursday's first performance in Silver Bay was the first time the two had ever been on stage together and the first time they had met aside from emails here and there, Herfindahl said. "No, we don't know each other well," he said of Gangestad, who is eight years older. "It was nice to connect."

Herfindahl said the concerts were bittersweet for him and, while it was nice to have the strenuous singing over with, it was "not nice to have to leave" his native county after such a warm welcome back.

Both are busy with touring and family life and when Paul Deaner of the Lake Superior Community Theatre first brought up the idea of a concert last year, Gangestad said it might be possible. "It worked out this time," Gangestad said between praise from hometown admirers Friday after the show. "Coming back is a great experience."

Gangestad said he doesn't get home very often, holidays and funerals, "unfortunately," he said. He had the extra honor of riding in the Two Harbors Heritage Days parade as the grand marshal.

As he struggled to remember faces and heard stories about antics as a youngster Friday, Gangestad also breathed easier with the two shows finished. The pair's style of singing is obviously strenuous and two shows in two nights in warm theaters was "tiring."

The pair alternated with arias to open the show, each performing three from Verdi, Rossini, and Mozart. They were accompanied by Anthony Sofie, a fellow University of Minnesota Duluth alumni.

Gangestad's powerful bass and theatrical expressions contrasted nicely with Herfindahl's artful baritone voice.

Gangestad then sang three from Schubert, including a soulful "Litanei," in tribute to his best friend, Greg Mielke, who died earlier this year and would have celebrated a birthday Thursday. Herfindahl led up to an intermission with musical theater works by Andrew Lloyd Webber, including "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserable," a perfect choice for his haunting range.

Things were lighter in the second set, with Herfeindahl singing "art songs" based on poems. Gangestad followed with some American classics, including "Shenandoah" and "Rio Grande."

Herfindahl sang three Italian concert songs, including "O Sole Mio."

Up until the last song of the night, the two had not been on stage at the same time. They entered from the wing to thunderous applause for a duet, "Suoni la tromba." Herfindahl said it was easy to prepare the show. They each created a set as if they were doing a solo concert and simply traded space on the stage. Herfindahl said there is little in their genre for duets among a bass and baritone but they found one that worked.

A humorous sign that they haven't worked together and the strangeness of the duet was the two mixing up the final note of the night and then laughing and hugging about it. The audience excused the mishap in light of the grand overall performances each gave.

Sustaining applause brought the two out again for encore solos that got even more applause as the audience easily recognized the pieces: Herfindahl's "The Impossible Dream" from "The Man From LaMancha" and Gangestad's "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific."

Herfindahl has come back to the area over the years for more "spontaneous" appearances in Silver Bay. He hopes to come up some more.

"It's always nice to come home," Gangestad said.

A fan on Friday asked Herfindahl who he thought had "won" the concert, ribbing him about the old school rivalry between Two Harbors and Silver Bay. "A tie," Herfindahl said appreciatively and diplomatically.

And a win for those who got to hear the two talented musicians and native sons.