“Real opera singers love beer,” says Julia Cooke, executive director for the Baltimore Concert Opera from the ornate foyer of the Engineers Club. In the background, a beautiful operatic voice transcends the sound of beer bottles clinking, the clambering of ice buckets and boisterous laughter coming from the courtyard.
Last night marked the first installment of BCO’s new Thirsty Thursdays at the Opera series, where rookies can learn about the musical art form while also sampling local libations. The premier event, “Ambers, Arias & IPAs,” featured craft selections from Brewer’s Art, Bell’s Beer, Boulevard Brewing Company, Flying Dog Brewery and Yards Brewing—all paired with operatic performances by four talented singers: Sharin Apostolou, Kate Farrar, Alex Richardson and Justin Hopkins (accompanied by pianist Justina Lee).
Here’s how it worked: When guests arrived, they were given a tasting glass and a laminated list of musical selections and coordinating beers. In between each movement, there was a break for a brief discussion of the songs, the beers and the notes they have in common. Fun! (Not formal.)
“I wanted to see how they were going to pair the beer with opera because they’re two very different things,” says Caitlin Bowen, a first year medical student at Johns Hopkins. “All I know is ‘Les Mis.’”
“You don’t have to know anything about opera to enjoy it,” says BCO production manager Courtney Kalbacker. “Some people think they need to know all of the history. You don’t even have to speak the language. We have subtitles for that.”
“This is something that we’ve wanted to do for a while now,” adds Cooke, enthusiastic to see a packed house of all ages and experience levels. “There’s this stigma that the opera crowd is elitist because it’s so traditional, but it’s just not true.”
Taking in the comingling of seasoned opera goers and spirited newbies, we think the BCO might just be on to something.
Stay tuned for two more Thirsty Thursdays this season: “Cabalettas and Cabernets” on Jan. 28 and “Hooch and High Notes” on April 14.