Sarah Stembel is among the soloists for Saturday’s Opera To Go pop-ups. Image: MS Opera

by Sherry Lucas

The earliest notes of a new Mississippi Opera initiative, “Opera To Go” will sing out first in Fondren and then in LeFleur East Saturday morning, before zooming off to Ridgeland for the 10th annual Euro-Fest at the Renaissance at Colony Park.

A trio of 15-minute “Flash Mob”-style pop up performances will bring a cultural quick fix to Broad Street Bakery at 9 a.m., Whole Foods at 10 a.m. and then Fresh Market at 11 a.m. The Euro-Fest performance is 2-3:30 p.m. at the Renaissance at Colony Park clock tower.

The effort will bring arias to Aisle 4 and meet people where they are with the classical art form many assume is lofty and out-of-reach.

Pop-ups will be a first for soprano Sarah Stembel of Mobile.

“I usually only do performances that are scheduled,” she says with a good-natured laugh. “I never sang in a grocery store or anything like that.

“I think people will be shocked, and kind of scared when they hear these big voices. But I think they’ll enjoy it. … It’s definitely a fun direction to go in. It grabs people’s attention.”

Millennials and subsequent generations may not know much about classical singers and classical music; springing it on them may be a good way to tune them in.

For the pop-ups, a selection of soloists and the Mississippi Opera Chorus — 26 singers total — will burst into song. Sites in Fondren and LeFleur East were selected for their Saturday morning traffic and the potential for reaching a target audience.

Broad Street co-owner Jeff Good did a turn in the opera’s production “Turandot” and Duling Hall is the anchor spot for the opera’s cabaret series and venue for all but two of the Mississippi Opera’s performances. Its “Amahl and the Night Visitors” will be presented at Bellwether Church this year.

Listen for “Habanera” and “Toreador Song” from “Carmen” and “The Drinking Song” from “La Traviata.” At Euro-Fest, hear duets, arias and musical theater selections. In addition to Stembel, the soloists include tenor Eric Botto, baritone Harlan Mapp and soprano Demi VanderWerff, with pianist Christopher Lovely.

“‘Opera To Go’ is a way to highlight all the non-stage activities that may otherwise go unnoticed. In addition to these pop-ups, we have numerous educational programs and volunteer opportunities,” says Mississippi Opera artistic director Jay Dean.

The Opera To Go umbrella also includes the core group of enthusiasts enjoying Saturday Metropolitan Opera Live-HD broadcasts at Tinseltown theater in Pearl, occasional guest performances and private bookings for events.

“We want to continue to expand the way people experience this amazing music, and make it seem more accessible,” Dean says.

Mississippi Opera’s next on-stage show is Monday night’s Alexander Awards Concert, 7:30 p.m. at Duling Hall.

Named for operatic tenor and Meridian native John Alexander, whose successful career included a longstanding relationship with the Metropolitan Opera, the competition has grown from a regional to a national competition and this year’s six winners (Stembel among them) were selected from 70 contestants from multiple states.

For more information on the Mississippi Opera and tickets to 2018-19 shows, visit msopera.org or call 601-960-2300.

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