Wine snobs have held sway over the opera scene for far too long. We’re pretty sure Wagner dug a Dunkelweiss, so let the beer crowd step into the ring.
Last month, when opera singer Melanie Esseltine stood at the back of Habits Gastropub and hit the high notes, her voice, which is trained to fill an opera hall, rang out in every corner of the pub. It was then that her old university mate Mirella Amato, now a certified cicerone (or beer sommelier), knew they’d found the perfect space to mount “Hopera,” an evening of opera and craft beer.
The two might seem like unlikely bedfellows: Certainly, a few of the high culture–friendly sponsors Amato initially approached for the event declined as soon as they heard the word beer. “A lot of people appreciate the opera and local food and wine, but beer has somehow not entered the picture,” she says. Of course, Amato makes her living turning people on to suds. She’s hoping this event will transform those opera-loving oenophiles into unequivocal barley-heads.
And she thinks that craft beer has something to offer to the world of opera. “Historically, opera was something that people would attend in a much less formal way than they do now,” she says. “It would be great to recapture that vibe.”
Her Hopera event at Habits, on September 19, will feature three opera singers—a tenor and two sopranos—accompanied by a piano. Six arias, trios, and duos will be paired with six beers from Amsterdam Brewery, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co., Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Cameron’s Brewery Co., Spearhead Brewing Company, and Stone Hammer.
But just how will Amato pair her two biggest passions? “By matching the mood of a piece to the mood of a beer,” she says. “When I feel a certain way, I reach for a certain style of beer. We’re going to play with that idea.”
Suds to suit an opera soundtrack
American-style India black ale + “Quando m’en vo’” from La Bohème.
“This complex beer style combines bright citrus notes with deep, roasted-malt tones,” Amato says. “It mirrors the complex personality of the aria’s singer, Musetta, who can be both impetuous and compassionate.”
Belgian witbier + “Barcarolle” from Tales of Hoffman
“The smooth, silky feel of wheat beer echoes the soothing tone of this duet,” Amato says. “The coriander flavour combines seamlessly with notes of orange peel, echoing the harmony of the two female voices.”
Hopera at Habits Gastropub, Sept. 19, 7 p.m. Tickets are $30.55 (or $65.55 with dinner) and can be purchased at hopera.eventbrite.com.