“I watch a lot of football,” proclaimed Jessie Neilson, of San Francisco’s Opera on Tap, where her official title is “co-managing diva.” “So many of the commercials they play during football games use classical music, and a lot of those pieces are from operas,” she said. “Whenever a football commercial needs something dramatic, it’s almost always opera music, because opera is some of some of the most beautiful, passionate, gorgeous and dramatic music ever written.”
To show how operatic arias are the auditory touchdowns of the musical world, Neilson — along with a dozen or so of her trained opera-singing associates — will be taking over the Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Tap Room and Beer Sanctuary Jan. 18 for Opera on Tap’s first ever Petaluma appearance. The event is a fundraiser for the national nonprofit that has 18 branches across the country, including groups in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, Portland, Toledo, and as of four years ago, San Francisco.
“It all started in Brooklyn,” Neilson said of Opera on Tap, which is devoted to bringing an aura of merriment, whimsy and playfully eyebrow-raising bawdiness to an art-form that was once as rowdy, raucous and popular as 10 Superbowls, but has gradually come to be seen as the last kind of music you’d find being sung in sports bars. That’s precisely the attitude that Opera on Tap is working to overturn, primarily by placing opera singers in bars, taverns and beer gardens.
She admits that at first, the idea seemed a bit outrageous.
“A lot of people think opera is some strange, inaccessible, stuffy thing,” she allowed, “that you have to be rich to attend opera, or you have to have a music degree to understand it. So Opera on Tap was formed to show people that opera can be cool and accessible and fun and awesome.”
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