Liberal Libretto
A new “outsider” movement is broadening opera’s reach
Media / 12 Oct 2011
Last fall, ballet shed some of its hoity-toity stigma and now another classical art form is being democratized for a younger, less affluent demographic: opera. A new boy band answer to the Three Tenors aside, fringe interpretations of opera are bringing glass-shattering vocals to audiences previously more likely to be found at a gritty rock club than a gilded theater.
Opera on Tap:
The difference between a self-taught folk singer and a classically trained opera singer may not be as dramatic as most believe. Opera on Tap is a national non-profit whose mission is to remove the socio-economic barrier between opera and its prospective fans by organizing performances in casual watering holes. A recent staging in LA saw a Rossini aria bring down the house at the Room 5 Lounge, a venue that typically hosts singer-songwriters and comedians. The open mike-style format yielded a variety show feel in which audience members could hit the bar at will rather than having to wait for an intermission like at the Met.
Like Opera on Tap, London’s OperaUpClose started in a beer soaked venue. The fringe theatre company’s first production was a bawdy staging of La Bohème in a pub called The Cock Tavern two years ago. This ‘thespian experiment’ resulted in a sold out six-month run, ultimately landing the show at the Soho Theatre, for which it won a prestigious Olivier award. Its most recent production, a modern adaptation of Don Giovanni set in pre-recession London, sees the title role recast as “Johnny Sterling,” a hedonistic Gordon Gekko type so topical that one wonders if the satire will soon hit the streets as part of Occupy London.
Stop the Virgens
The fact that the star of this new show launched her career with unrestrained on-stage antics that included spewing beer onto her audience demonstrates how high opera’s velvet ropes are lifting these days. Karen O, of indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is assuming a new kind of lead singer status with her role in Stop the Virgens, an experimental psychedelic opera about the mythological evolution of a group of virgins. The show, a nine-song cycle seven years in the making and opening tonight at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, is backed by the Creators Project, an arts patronage partnership between Vice Media and Intel. Next stop, Coachella?
©The Intelligence Group