When you think of opera, you might think of extravagant halls and people wearing expensive clothing and jewelry. You may also think of opera, like classical music, as a lofty, intellectual affair. The last thing you would associate with opera is a bar with great burgers and other pub food.
On the first Tuesday of every month, this unlikely combination, called “Opera On Tap,” occurs at the Sidetrack Bar and Grill in downtown Ypsilanti.
While customers eat their dinner, a half dozen singers – students and otherwise – sing a collection of arias and duets. A pianist accompanies the singers on an electric piano set up by the stairs and the singers stand near it while wander among the tables and interacting with the patrons at the restaurant.
This format is not unlike the way opera was viewed at its inception. During the early days of the art form, performances served as social events where friends came together to eat, drink, listen and have a good time.
OOT brings opera into the modern age while also giving a nod to its origins.
“A lot of the time, opera is dismissed as being elitist, only for nerds and grey-hairs; but OOT breaks that stereotype – it’s a really fantastic way to experience this music,” said Jacob Warren, 19.
All patrons get a program to follow along as each aria is performed. Each month has a theme. Past ones have included “Ice Queens of Opera,” “Opera’s Monsters” and “L’Amour Éternal.”
The theme this month is “Libations and Laughter” and next is “Fools of Opera.” The singers’ introductions, often funny, explain what is happening in the opera at the time of their pieces.
OOT began in Brooklyn in 2005 and has a network of venues and performers in sixteen cities across the country. Ko Kaiden and Glenn Perry are the co-managing divos of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti chapter, which started in 2009.
“[…] OOT is the most fun I’ve ever had singing,” Perry said. “Where else can you sing opera and drink beer at the same time?”
“OOT and other movements like it are vital for opera right now,” said Elaina Robbins, a light coloratura soprano from Ann Arbor who’s been singing with OOT since 2012. “We're fighting against stuffy stereotypes, and one way to do that is to sing at a bar. I've introduced tons of friends and acquaintances – people who might not want to come to a full-length opera – to the genre through OOT. It's a great gateway into classical and operatic singing.”
Opera On Tap is a unique and exciting way to experience this music. Come down to the Sidetrack this Tuesday.
To make reservation call (734) 483-5230.