Opera on Tap: Encapsulating The Quirky Talent
I had no idea what to expect when a friend invited me to the opera night at Prachtwerk bar last month. In my mind opera had always been reserved for grandiose performances in concert halls. This art form has, for many of us, always resided behind a traditional barrier. However this was an image that tumbled down as I experienced my first Opera on Tap. As I watched the singers glide from the stage into the crowd, singing with astounding confidence and sass, I was gob smacked. It was amazing to watch this art form become so accessible, tangible and inclusive.
Though the idea of Opera on Tap was born in the New York City in 2005 and blew up from there, organisers of the Berlin night, Anne Byrne and Sarah Ring, both felt, independently, that this city would be the perfect place to introduce the organization to Europe. A mutual friend back in the United States, who recognised their correlative goal to see Opera on Tap in Berlin, made the dream a reality and introduced Sarah and Anne on facebook. They had both previously worked with Opera on Tap so it was a relationship with high potential. From there the pair started looking for venues to host the Opera nights and as fate would have it Anne was introduced to John Hasler and Stephanie Hasler of Prachtwerk bar.
“As soon as I came to Prachtwerk I knew it was exactly what we had been searching for,” Anne said. With its high ceilings, mixture of modern and vintage interior and ample space, it was clear that Prachtwerk had all the aesthetic and practical needs to host the Opera on Tap nights. “We get some really fantastic opera singers, with amazing, booming voices. The space suits the voices perfectly and can accommodate large audiences. It has worked out really well.”
“It is also very rare to find a bar that has a piano. We were looking for something quite unique and we found that here,” Sarah said.
For Anne and Sarah, discovering Prachtwerk was more than just finding the right space. A mirroring of ideologies and brand ethos was also unearthed and has created a strong bond between Prachtwerk and Opera on Tap.
After meeting with Stephanie and hearing her explain the philosophy that Prachtwerk has about supporting local artists, hosting engaging shows and providing the audiences with unique experiences, they realised that their goals matched. “We felt very at home instantly,” Sarah said.
According to John, Prachtwerk was opened with a goal of creating a stage that would provide a variety of different ideas and experience. They wanted to break out of the norm. “A lot of venues just stick to their thing. They pick their target audience and stay with that. However, there is so much diversity here in Neukölln and the artists are so talented; we wanted to create a space that could be as diverse as this city.” John said. ‘That’s why we loved it when the girls approached us about the night. We had never heard of opera in a bar before and for us, the more creative and fresh it is, as long as it’s done professionally, then it is fair game.”
It is the quality and professionalism of the Opera on Tap group that probed Stephanie and John to give an opportunity to this unique event. ‘They took a chance on us. They said that if we got 70 people in the audience then we could make the show a monthly regular,” Sarah described.
“We panicked!” Anne exclaimed. However, the first show was a hit with nearly 100 people in the audience.
The group has now had five shows at Prachtwerk, a success they attribute to their growing and receptive audience. John agrees and says Opera on Tap night gives the audiences an inclusive vibe. “I’d say out of everything we do here it’s definitely one of the most interactive and fun nights. It has been amazing!”
Anne shares this view and says the energy the audience gives is something that also uplifts the performers. It is this love for the audience as well as the desire to keep the event open for everyone to experience this truly quirky night that drives the members of Opera on Tap to keep the event free.“We ask for donations and we will haggle you, but we like to keep it open for everyone,” Anne said.
This sense of community unites the Opera on Tap group as the nights. The shows are put on without any rehearsals and therefore rely on a strong bond of trust between the performers. “We have a thirty minute check sound check before the night starts and that is it,” Sarah said. “We have really professional singers, so we trust that they will do what they need to.”
Despite this improv attitude, Sarah and Anne do establish a theme for each night. According to John this keeps the nights accessible and fresh. Even though there are a lot of different pieces, there is there is still continuity and anyone can identify with the subject matter.
This month’s theme is ‘Oot um die Welt.’ “We figured August in the time when most people are travelling, so the August performance will explore an around the world theme,” says Sarah.
‘We have a mix of Russian arias, Mexican and Czech pieces and lots of different styles that aren’t usually heard,” included Anne.
This month's singers are Tanya Roberts, Aída de la Cruz, Jeremy Osborne, Stephanie Weiss, Seth Carico, Sarah Ring and Anne Byrne with Pianist Daniel Gundlach.
“We are all connected via the Berlin artist community and many of us have worked together in the past in both the US and Europe,” Anne explained.
The event will kick off at Prachtwerk on Tuesday the 18th of August at 8:00pm and is sure to deliver a mixed bag of outstanding musical talent, eccentric performances and an unmatched experience for us all to delight in. So for those of you who love to immerse yourself in the Bohemian and zany talent in Berlin, it is a night that simply can’t be missed.
By Alice Dundon
Photos by Masa Zia Lenárdic