by Nancy Ngo on 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.”
Diva Cage Match 2.0 will be Saturday evening at Uppercut Boxing Gym in northeast Minneapolis. Six world-class sopranos — three locally based singers representing the “home team” and three from various opera communities and companies around the country — will enter a boxing ring and compete against each other in sing-offs. Finalists will perform in a second round as part of the finale. Performers will also bring a fashion element to the event with evening dresses, done-up hair and makeup.
The best performances are whittled by a panel of judges. Last year’s judges included singer, rapper and writer Dessa as well as renowned gospel singer J.D. Steele. “Diva Cage Match exceeded my every expectation,” Dessa has said about the event. “It was funny, stocked with impressive talent, and brilliantly staged.”
This year, judges will be American soprano Emily Pulley, Penumbra Theater veteran actor and singer T. Mychael Rambo and jazz singer Patty Peterson.
Creating a fun vibe and keeping ticket prices lower (starting at $35) are other ways the group are hoping to attract new audiences. That means cheers, beers and social media are part of it.
“It’s just like any sporting event. If you want to get up and grab a drink, that’s allowed,” Lefkowich said. Also, “In traditional opera performances, we ask people to put away their phones … but with Diva Cage Match, we want people to be taking photos and videos and posting on social media.”
This is the second Diva Cage Match from Out of the Box Opera, founded in 2017 to explore opera options. Diva Cage Match is co-sponsored by Minneapolis theater company Ten Thousand Things Theatre.
In addition to the Twin Cities show, Diva Cage Match will travel to other cities around the country for the first time this year with stops that include Pittsburgh, Detroit and Austin, Texas. In addition, Out of the Box is slated to present a “Opera/Jazz/Fusion” production in New York City on Nov. 28.
The group will host additional local events scheduled for 2019. On Feb. 9, Out of the Box Opera is teaming with the Weisman Art Museum to host “Opera & Gospel” on the University of Minnesota campus. In May, “Heroes and Villains” will weave theater and opera using all levels of Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis.