New Jersey-born mezzo soprano Eve Orenstein was born into alternative culture: Her mother is a composer and her father an artist and designer who's known for creating the first inflatable furniture back in the '60s. But her own cultural love in life turned out to be opera, a classical genre she champions as a living art that's still growing and changing in the 21st century. To that end, she spearheaded Colorado's chapter of Opera on Tap, wherein opera singers let loose monthly for casual audiences in bars, breweries and other beer-friendly performance spaces, but she still also performs in the real thing, both here and back on the East Coast.
In her spare time? Orenstein addresses her other love -- local foodie culture -- through her other project, the food-swap club Mile High Swappers. We're amazed that a woman this busy even had time to sit down with the 100CC questionnaire, but she did, and her insights follow, with gusto.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Eve Orenstein: That's easy -- Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya and their whole scene. Berlin, Paris and New York in the '20s and '30s, working with Brecht and the Gershwins and Langston Hughes, bringing dark, absurdist cabaret to Broadway, blurring lines between classical and popular genres and just being brilliant and talented and politically dissident. I would do anything to be there/then and work with them.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Neil deGrasse Tyson. He's just so passionate, so in love with the esoteric thing he's into that he makes something as decidedly unsexy to most people as astrophysics incredibly compelling. I have known he is clever like that for a while now, but the more he is established as the public face of science, the more I like him. Has anyone done that since Carl Sagan?
Continue reading for more from Eve Orenstein. What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Companies producing staid, traditional productions of very popular operas in order to appeal to the public. I wish we were more like Europe, where they challenge audiences with inventive productions and new operas. I think playing it safe perpetuates stereotypes and is not what the people want.
Opera is not a museum piece -- it's a living art! I saw the director of Opera Philadelphia speak -- the gist of it was how they did all sorts of amazing fundraising and planning in order to raise enough capital to produce new operas and create a community of opera lovers and not fall apart completely. New operas! New audiences! And it is working.
What's your day job?
I'm director of development at Curious Theatre Company, so I do fundraising for my favorite Denver theater.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Dreamy. I would do everything I'm doing now -- singing and spreading the gospel of opera to the masses. I'd just have way more time to do it without needing to pay the bills. And I would travel and see great art and music everywhere. And then, I'd spread the wealth so any artist making good work can have the time and materials to focus solely on making the world a more beautiful, interesting place.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Offer free space to artists to create and present and perform -- and fail! -- in order to incubate and develop works without the pressure of overhead and deadlines and review panels. Then I'd create a forum for the art that comes out to be presented in a big way -- to everyone, not just other artists.
Continue reading for more from Eve Orenstein. Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I would be remiss not to mention my husband, Sean Faling, with whom I recently started performing. He plays and makes analog synthesizers and is a really inventive sound artist. We come from such different musical backgrounds, but we were asked to work together for a Gorinto show by David Mead and Kurt Bauer. Sean managed to figure out how to combine my operatic voice with his electronic soundscapes and make something really interesting.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This spring, in addition to our regular shows at Deer Pile and Brewery Tour stops, Opera on Tap Colorado is performing a live-composed, audience-driven opera as part of the Dazzle Classical Music Series. We have a Colorado Composers Concert coming up, and right now, we are reviewing some simply gorgeous submissions by local composers for that. We also will have a weeklong residency at Monkey Town. And next year, we plan to produce an evening of mini-operas -- some as short as ten minutes!
Sean and I plan to record together, I will audition for local opera companies and see what comes of that, and I will perform more with the National Chorale at Lincoln Center in New York, which I do several times a year.
And, of course, there is my other world of homemade/homegrown food swaps with Mile High Swappers, which I started almost three years ago. I run the monthly swaps in Boulder at farms in the spring and summer and at Savory Spice Shop when it's cold. It will be nice to be back outside again!
Maybe I can fit in a nap at some point, too....
Who do you think will get noticed in the local opera/performance community in 2014?
Boulder Opera Company. They are poised to become a really excellent company developing interesting work, as well as presenting fun operas for children. People need to know.
See this month's Opera on Tap event, Viva Italia, at Deer Pile at 8 p.m. Friday, March 21; admission is $8. Opera on Tap also performs On Demand, an entertaining mixture of improv and fancy singing, at 7 p.m. April 8 at Dazzle, as part of the club's ongoing classical music series. Tickets are $15. Learn more about Opera on Tap online or access the Facebook page.
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