To get young audience, opera to stage in bar
By Laura Stace
The Florida Grand Opera inked a deal last week that will put opera on the stage of a trendy Design District bar.
"I think putting opera in a place where no one would expect to see it is a great way to start to break down all those stereotypes of what the art form is," said Susan Danis, opera general director and CEO.
From March 21-24, The Florida Grand Opera will perform double bill performances of Ástor Piazzolla's "Maria de Buenos Aires" and Robert Xavier Rodriguez' "Tango" at The Stage, at 170 NE 38th St.
"Doing a production such as this gives the Florida Grand Opera the opportunity to reach out to new audiences, such as the younger crowd of art lovers that already frequent Wynwood and the Design District," said Maestro Ramon Tebar, the opera's music director.
"It also lets us break the stereotypes about the opera being stuffy or boring."
The project was funded by the Knight Foundation.
Mr. Tebar said the original idea proposed to the Knight Foundation was to present a rarely performed work in a place where no one would ever expect to see an opera.
He said the Florida Grand Opera elected to produce a double bill of two shorter-than-average operas that revolve around tango music.
"This production is not only sultry and captivating, but the music itself is a fusion of several cultures — Spanish, Italian, French and African — which makes it ideal for a city like Miami," Mr. Tebar said.
The next step, he said, was to find a venue that would resemble the places where tango music is performed in Argentina — bars and nightclubs.
"This is where this style of music was born," he said.
"To this day, the bar scene remains central to the tango experience in Argentina."
Mr. Tebar said credit goes to the opera's production team, who found a venue that evokes the spirit of these bars.
Carlos Garcia, co-owner of The Stage, said he has had live theater performances at his venue quite a few times, but never opera.
"What made it a good idea is that we were taking an art form that has existed for quite a long time and making it current," he said.
"Showcasing it in a new setting and bringing a culture as well regarded as the opera to The Stage was a no-brainer for us."
Mr. Garcia said patrons of The Stage will be enthusiastic and proud the venue has maintained a strong tie-in to its original vision, which included hosting not only live music events but live theater, comedy, dance, spoken word, poetry and even showcasing movies.
"We chose the name The Stage to express to the local, national and international community that we were a venue that promoted artistic expression before all else," he said.
"Throughout history, a stage has always been the ultimate platform for expressing ideas, concepts and entertainment. We'd like to think that's what makes us stand out."
Mr. Garcia said the opera performances would definitely attract new patrons and current patrons alike and predicts the shows will be a hit across the board.
The Florida Grand Opera has some experience in performing in non-traditional space, Mr. Tebar said.
The opera has worked closely with the Knight Foundation in its Random Acts of Culture program, he said, and did surprise flash mob style opera in locations including Macy's Dadeland, Miami International Airport and most recently Ikea Sunrise.
Mr. Tebar said the opera has also performed at a gallery during the Wynwood Second Saturday Art Walk and had an annual Opera In The Park concert just outside the Bass Museum.
Ms. Danis took her position at the Florida Grand Opera in October and said one of her goals was to re-engage community members.
"Sometimes it's about taking the opera out of the opera house and taking it in to nontraditional places," she said.
Performance times and ticket information aren't yet final.
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