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Former Long Lake resident Joseph Mechavich has spent his career conducting around the world but is back in Minnesota to conduct “The Barber of Seville” for the Minnesota Opera. (Submitted photo)

Growing up in Long Lake, Joseph Mechavich enjoyed what the city had to offer in the 70’s and 80’s. Much of his time was spent learning music, which translated into his current career. As a conductor, Mechavich has traveled all over the world, but is now returning to his roots while he conducts “The Barber of Seville” with the Minnesota Opera.

Mechavich’s music journey began at a young age. As a 6-year-old, he would bang on the piano in elementary school, where his music teacher would then become his first piano teacher.

“My brother started taking [piano] and he liked it more, but I really didn’t get started until I was in middle school. I started entering competitions,” Mechavich said.

Throughout grade school, he continued to play in competitions, playing the trombone in high school band and receiving encouragement and support from his family throughout all of his practicing and performing.

“My parents were very supportive. They were not musical themselves, but they were supportive... they gave me everything I needed,” he said.

Being competitive was something Mechavich was all about growing up. Although he did not start winning competitions until he was in high school, he was motivated to keep going forward. The moment he knew he wanted to pursue music in a professional manner was when he attended Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute.

“It was for the high school division and I got the chance to see classical music and what the world was like. I fell in love with it,” Mechavich said.

After high school, Mechavich went on to get his undergraduate at Oberlin College and Conservatory to get the small college experience as well as to work to become a concert pianist - or at least that’s what he thought he was going to do for the rest of his career.

“I had auditioned at many colleges, but there was one teacher [at Oberlin] I really enjoyed... I studied with him while I was there and I was really thinking I was going to be a concert pianist the rest of my life,” Mechavich said.

After Oberlin, Mechavich attended Yale University for his masters and then returned to Minnesota where he worked as a part of the music staff for the Minnesota Opera for five years. He then went on to various opera companies and began conducting more and more.

Mechavich’s career has brought him all over the world. He has presided over productions of “Porgy and Bess” for Deutsche Oper Berlin, “Nixon in China” for Auckland Philharmonia/New Zealand Opera, “II barbiere di Siviglis” for The Washington National Opera, “Madama Butterfly” for New York City Opera and “Dead Man Walking” for Atlanta Opera.

After years of conducting around the world, Mechavich is back in Minneapolis at the place he started, the Minnesota Opera, but is now conducting.

“[The Barber of Seville] is an opera by [Gioachino] Rossini. Everybody has some idea of what this opera is about because they’ve seen the Bugs Bunny cartoon...It’s a wonderful comedy,” he said.

“The Barber of Seville” is slated to perform at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts beginning Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 17. Ticket information can be found at https://mnopera.org/season/2019-2020/the-barber-of-seville/

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