Opera on Tap blends Mozart and Manhattans

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Interested in savoring a little Georges Bizet with your favorite brew? Some Humperdinck with your hamburger? 

Then you’ll enjoy Opera on Tap, a new ensemble devoted to lowering the cultural highbrow with a little Miller High Life, bringing musical classics to the masses.

Started in 2005 in New York City, Opera on Tap performers now sing in 15 cities, including Milwaukee. VIA Downer, the gourmet pizza restaurant at 2625 N. Downer Ave., will host the Milwaukee chapter’s first-ever performance at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25.

As nonprofits, Opera on Tap chapters exist to give young singers the chance to perform live in a non-traditional environment. They also allow audiences who don’t normally attend concerts to enjoy opera, vocal classics, jazz and folk song performances in a comfortable atmosphere, according to Kirstin Roble.

“We want to give people a chance to experience all kinds of music,” says Roble, a mezzo-soprano who, with bass-baritone Henry Hammond, co-founded Opera on Tap’s Milwaukee chapter earlier this fall. “As a performer, (Opera on Tap) gives me the chance to experience all types of music, too.”

A typical Opera on Tap performance consists of singers performing five to six songs each during a two- to three-hour performance. While performances are free, the company encourages voluntary donations of at least $5 per listener — to help keep the operation going. The singers, many of whom are students enrolled in local music programs, get paid sporadically.

Each performance has a theme — the Nov. 25 theme is “A Very Operatic Thanksgiving.” In addition to Roble and Hammond, the performance will feature sopranos Julianne Frey, Sarah Richardson and Ruth Brown; mezzo-soprano Brianne Sura; baritone Adam Qutaishat; and bass-baritone Wayne Tiggs.

Each singer selects material fitting the theme. Roble plans on performing “Pa pa pa” from Mozart’s Die Zaüberflöte in a duet with Hammond, along with “Some Things are Meant to Be” from the musical Little Women, and “Faites a lui mes a veux” from Gounod’s Faust.

Despite the seriousness of some of the selections, the mood of the show will be light, upbeat and fun, Roble says.

“It’s like a show, but it’s really chill because we know people are coming to eat more than they are to listen,” she says.

Opera on Tap’s inaugural performance is part of a regular Monday night music program at VIA Downer. Opera on Tap will return to the restaurant in January, when the theme will be “Vengeance.”

“We don’t know that there are a lot of songs that fit the theme other than maybe from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, but we will choose to define the term liberally,” Roble says.

Roble and Hammond are on the lookout for singers to audition for future slots with Opera on Tap.

Interested candidates can email a recording, resume and headshot to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .