Concert hall or beer hall? Opera on Tap blends the best of both

Dec 14, 2016

Singer Courtney Gammill performs at Opera on Tap on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016
Credit Rhiannon Gilbert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- The warehouse barroom of Little Harpeth Brewing felt more like an old English pub on Friday night as laughing, Christmas sweater-clad partygoers mingled and enjoyed up-close performances with opera singers.

This was the third performance of Nashville’s chapter of Opera on Tap, a national non-profit organization that aims to provide an outlet for young performers and expose new audiences to opera music in non-traditional settings.

Opera on Tap got started in Music City earlier this year by Lindsay Cunningham, Erin Ridge and Charlotte Ulrich, three graduates from Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music who call themselves the chapter’s “co-managing divas.”

“When I graduated I ended up not working in Opera, but I wanted it to still be part of my life,” Ulrich said. “It was a little bit hard to find regular performing opportunities for opera, so when Lyndsey reached out about this, it just seemed like the perfect fit for what I wanted to do.”

The singers’ performances are fun and theatrical, with crowd-pleasing songs that are often comical or risqué. According to Ridge, the art form is being very well received by bar hoppers in Nashville.

“We were blown away by the amount of people that actually came to our first show,” Ridge said. “We had about a hundred people there…They just loved how casual and accessible it was. We got to interact with them and kind of sing in the midst of the audience, and they thought that was amazing, because when else do you have an opera singer singing this close to your face?”

Enjoying live opera with draft beer is an odd concept for the modern crowd, but it’s actually a bit of a throwback to the olden days, according to patron Gabrielle Lewis.

“Back in the day…people would go into the opera boxes and they would eat and drink and do an array of unseemly things, and the main focus was not completely on the music,” Lewis said. “It was more about having a great evening and just being out, so I think it’s really cool that in 2016 we’re able to kind of tie back into the way opera really used to be back then.”

Opera on Tap plans to continue hosting its monthly bar shows to bring a stereotypically sophisticated genre to Nashville’s night life and add to the city’s musical diversity.

“I think people are just curious,” Ulrich said. “The fact that we’re getting so well-received by people I think just proves that people are interested in everything else that there is out there.”

To learn more about Opera on Tap Nashville or how to donate, follow them on social media @ootnashville.