by Pamela Espeland
Oct. 13, 2018
Diva Cage Match founder strives to make opera 'entertaining and accessible'
With Diva Cage Match, director David Lefkowich goes to battle for a classic art form.
In March 2015, David Lefkowich was at the University of Kentucky, directing “The Tales of Hoffmann.” It was the first time Jacques Offenbach’s opera had been presented there.
“The night before,” Lefkowich recalled, “there’s a basketball game with 30,000 people in attendance. The next night, opening night of my opera, there are 300 people.
“But that’s not the worst part. The worst part was people congratulating themselves on having that many people come. And I thought — this is a problem. Both of these things are exciting in their own right. But one has 30,000 people and a lot of money behind it. The other has 300 and a lot of gumption behind it.
“I got obsessed with this idea of competition, and how opera is like an Olympic sport. I started thinking, ‘What’s a place where competition exists and opera could be harmonious with that?’ Because opera doesn’t belong just anywhere.
“Then somebody mentioned Uppercut Boxing Gym, and I went there, and I thought — this is an operatic space. Not in a traditional sense, but it feels dramatic.”
That was the moment Diva Cage Match was born. In October 2017, six young sopranos in makeup and gowns gathered at Uppercut. Two by two, they faced off in the ring before a sold-out crowd and a panel of celebrity judges that included Dessa, J.D. Steele and operatic baritone Lucas Meachem. They sang. They postured. But first, they had to climb through the ropes.
Lefkowich was master of ceremonies. “The moment before we started, I laughed and thought, This is either going to kill my career, or it’s going to be the start of something exciting.” Before long, “people were whooping for Wagner.” And these were not Wagnerphiles, he said. They took a chance on something new because it sounded like fun.
by Nancy Ngo
Oct. 19, 2018
Intimidated by opera? Diva Cage Match could be your ticket
Opera doesn’t have to be expensive, serious and intimidating. It can be affordable, fun and approachable, and that’s the idea behind this weekend’s pop-up opera event Diva Cage Match 2.0 from local group Out of the Box Opera.
Artistic director David Lefkowich, whose experience includes productions at both the Minnesota Opera and Mill City Summer Opera, said part of the reason Out of the Box Opera formed was to give audiences additional ways to experience opera — and attract new audiences.
“You can attend this performance as an opera lover or an opera novice. It lets you experience opera without it being a traditional opera performance,” he said. “For the first time opera-goer, they’re really being treated to a feast to sample a bunch of different operas all under two hours. But for the experienced opera-goer, they’re getting treated to hearing stars of the up-and-coming American opera singers.”
David Lefkowich, Lara Bolton, and Danielle Beckvermit performed on WCCO Mid-Morning News for Diva Cage Match 2.0
Mill City Times
Sept. 21, 2018
by Merle Minda
Out of the Box Opera Enters 3rd Year with Reboot of “Diva Cage Match 2.0”
First-Ever Season Planned for 2018-2019
Out of the Box Opera enters its third year with a return of its wildly popular “Diva Cage Match 2.0”, to be held Saturday, October 20th at 7:00 PM at the Uppercut Boxing Gym, 1324 Quincy Street NE, in North East Minneapolis. Last year’s sell-out audience was treated to spectacular “Diva” performances by sopranos in full evening dress who climbed into the boxing ring to sing their hearts out.
“It’s hard for me to explain why you should see world-class opera singers strutting around a boxing ring competing to see who can hit the highest glass-shattering note. But trust me, this one’s worth it!” said former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
“Diva Cage Match exceeded my every expectation,” said singer, rapper and writer Dessa, a Diva Cage Match judge in 2017. “It was funny, stocked with impressive talent, and brilliantly staged.”
And “pure genius!” said renowned gospel singer J.D. Steele, who was also a judge in 2017.
Mill City Times
January 28, 2018
by Merle Minde
Out of the Box Opera to Present Fusion Evening of Opera, Jazz and Soul
Innovative opera company Out of the Box Opera presents Live at the Weisman, another evening of operatic adventure, Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm. The Fusion Series includes several iconic musical styles fused into one fantastic evening of music, - a mashup of opera, jazz, soul and whatever is in between.
“The program includes Puccini to Gershwin to Mozart to Stevie Wonder: a musical journey exploring the best of each genre and celebrating music,” says Out of the Box artistic director David Lefkowich.
Performers include singers/special guests: Chris Colmenero, tenor; Clara Osowski, mezzo soprano; Brittany Ann Robinson, soprano; bass Ben Sieverding and opera/musical theater performer Dom Wooten. Musicians include Lara Bolton, piano/arrangements; Doug Little, saxophone, and Nate Babbs, drums.
Already known for creating uniquely delightful musical experiences, Out of the Box Opera last performed Diva Cage Match, a soprano sing-off, in October 2017 at the Uppercut Boxing Gym in NE Minneapolis. With “Opera for New Audiences” as its mantra, Out of the Box Opera is led by artistic director David Lefkowitz, well-known to Twin Cities’ opera audiences for his six years leading Mill City Summer Opera to high achievement. This new program has been co-conceived by David Lefkowich and Lara Bolton.
Mill City Press
by Claudia Kittock
Sept. 9, 2017
Have you ever seen a cage match? Me neither! Do you know what a cage match is? Well, I had to look it up. According to Wiktionary.org, a cage match is: “An event in which wrestlers battle in an enclosed location, escaping over the top to win!” I’m sure you are asking yourself why Claudia Kittock, who writes about non-profits in the Mill District, is writing about a cage match. Great question!!
Noah Eisenberg and Jim Berman, opera aficionados and great friends, have spent decades of their friendship going to operas and delighting in the wonder of the sights and sounds of opera. As time progressed, Noah and Jim discussed a mutual concern about how to introduce opera to younger people and by introducing it, make sure to show the humor, the showmanship, and the skill needed to be a performer in the world of opera. So along with artistic director David Lefkowich, Noah and Jim formed Out of the Box Opera, whose mission is to bring opera to new audiences in new ways.
David conceived of the idea for the cage match as the perfect fusion of world-class opera and competitive sports. Next, they sought out a venue that would take the cage match concept to a younger audience. The Uppercut Boxing Gym in the heart of the Northeast Minneapolis’ Arts District provided the perfect setting. Opera in a boxing gym? As you can tell, these are wildly creative men who think way outside any known box!
Come to Uppercut Boxing Gym in Northeast Minneapolis on October 28 to watch as six opera stars compete in a three-round, knockdown, drag out fight to be crowned the ultimate Opera Diva Champion. Experience a sensational night of singing, featuring an unbelievable display of vocal fireworks by some of the top young operatic talent from around the country. With celebrity judges Dessa, JD Steele, and RT Rybak, Diva Cage Match puts you in the front row for the sing off of the century.