San Francisco is all about the pop-ups these days, with pop-up food, pop-up art shows, and pop-up retail all over the city. Now, pop-up opera is entering the scene, with San Francisco Opera holding a unique and unprecedented event at Rickshaw Stop this Monday.
Called Barely Opera, the slogan is "This Isn’t Your Grandma’s Opera." And with cocktails, a "Wheel of Songs" and a live DJ, the event is designed to turn preconceived notions about opera on its head.
San Francisco Opera was founded in 1923, and has called the War Memorial Opera House home for over 80 years. It was the first opera house in the USA that was not built by and for wealthy patrons—instead, it was funded through subscriptions from private citizens.
"We’ve always liked to think of ourselves as the people’s opera," said Kristen Jones of San Francisco Opera."Going out into the community or alternative venues like Rickshaw Stop is an extension of that."
The night will be an amalgamation of classic opera favorites and Broadway tunes, but the song choices will be up to the audience. A "Wheel of Songs" (modeled after the Wheel of Fortune) can be spun—or if you're a vocal type, shout out your favorite and the baritone, soprano, mezzo-soprano and pianists will make it happen.
The event is also an opportunity to make opera seem less scary. By turning the song choices over to the audience, offering "opera-themed" cocktails, and an inexpensive $10 cover, organizers hopes to remove the intimidation factor from opera. This is also why they've chosen to host the event at Rickshaw Stop, instead of their grand War Memorial Opera House.
But the night is about more than just one experience: it's a precursor to a very large launch. A year from now, in February 2016, a new 299-seat theatre space called the Wilsey Center will be opening at 401 Van Ness. The center will be located adjacent to the Opera House, on the top floor of Veterans Building.
Aside from bringing all of the Opera administration staff together under one roof, the Wilsey Center will also be host to a number of events. The atrium theater will be a performance space for everything from Baroque to modern pieces, and the John M. Bryan Education Studio will offer a space for educational programs, meetings, and rehearsals.
Kristen says the Opera hopes to do a number of pop-up events between now and the Wilsey Center's opening. "We hope when people see just how talented opera singers are no matter kind of song they are singing," she says.
Tickets for Barely Opera on March 2nd are $10 a piece, and can be bought online or at the door. Doors open at 8pm, and the show starts at 8:30pm.
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