In 2005, a group of New York opera singers wondered why they couldn't sing at bars the way that rock bands do. So they started Opera on Tap in Brooklyn as a way to promote opera as a viable and living art form in less traditional venues. Since the group incorporated in 2007, it's formed more than twenty chapters around the country; the Colorado branch started in 2011.
Eve Orenstein, mezzo soprano and managing diva of the Colorado chapter, says that opera takes a lot of work to put on, but opera singers have arias and ensembles that are pretty much ready to go for auditions.
"We’re ready to just sing," Orenstein says. "We don’t have to do all the fussing."
The Colorado chapter has more than sixty singers and has put on nearly 150 shows at bars around Denver. It found a permanent home at Syntax Physic Opera, and has also performed at libraries, farms, galleries and DIY venues.
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After Syntax Physic Opera closed its doors and Roxy Broadway took over the space earlier this summer, Opera on Tap tried out a few other venues while looking for a new home. While bars like Big Trouble, Goosetown Tavern and the Black Buzzard all had things the organizers liked, they ultimately chose Rory's Tavern at 404 Broadway because the owners seemed really excited to have them, the bar had its own piano, and "the singers sound really good in that space, because it’s got great big high ceilings," Orenstein says.
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A typical show might include a theme, whether it's a language or a focus on a single composer. The group has also done Shakespeare-inspired shows and programs about love — "and those aren’t always about love that’s good," Orenstein adds with a laugh. One concert might include seven to fifteen singers. While Opera on Tap performers have all been classically trained, most of them are not supporting themselves solely by singing, but some have careers involved with music.
As Orenstein tells it, the Colorado chapter of Opera on Tap has a two-fold mission: The first is giving singers opportunities to sing in front of people, and the second is spreading the gospel of opera.
"We think that everybody just may need a little reminder that they love it," she says. "There are very few people that we’ve met that really hate it."
On Saturday, October 5, Opera on Tap will hold its annual fundraiser, which includes a silent auction with Santa Fe Opera tickets, Isabelle Farm produce, beer from Upslope Brewing Company and more, as well as a selection of opera's greatest hits, all starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and for students, and $10 the day of the show. On November 23, Opera on Tap will perform almost all of La Rondine and then throw its Holiday Extravaganza on December 14. All programs and events will take place at Rory's Tavern, 404 Broadway.