Cleveland Opera Theater tuning up for ‘freeing’ night of outdoor opera

August 21, 2018

Cleveland Opera Theater tuning up for ‘freeing’ night of outdoor opera

CLEVELAND, Ohio – For Cleveland Opera Theater, the rewards associated with its annual free outdoor concert at Dunham Tavern Museum far outweigh the risks.

Sure, the chances of rain, bugs, heat and humidity are relatively high, but the chances of making new fans and eradicating tired stereotypes are even higher, and all but impossible to pass up.

“When it happens and everything works, it’s pretty magical,” said Scott Skiba, executive artistic director of Cleveland Opera Theater and director of opera studies at Baldwin Wallace University. “It’s the ultimate non-stuffy way to experience opera.”

He’s not kidding. Opera night at Dunham Tavern, an institution now in its fourth year, is about as far as it’s possible to get from opera as depicted in popular culture.

No black ties, ball gowns, or monocles here. Instead, visitors at Dunham are encouraged to dress as casually as they wish.

No shushing, either. Light chatter is fine, and guests are welcome to get up from their picnic blankets to roam the grounds or visit one of the on-site wine, ice cream, or other food vendors. It’s even easy to leave, if for some reason the music displeases.

“We definitely have people show up because it’s low-risk,” Skiba said.

“Of all the things we do, everyone can relate to this one, because it’s outdoors. There’s a real informality to it. It’s something a little atypical.”

Not that anyone’s eyeing the exits, of course. The last in a summer-long series of free concerts around the region by Cleveland Opera Theater, the Dunham Tavern event is specially designed by the company to be as appealing as possible to the 1,000-plus people Skiba said he’d like to see in attendance.

On the program this year are highlights from operas by Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Bernstein, Donizetti, and Rossini, most of which will be familiar to adults. There’ll also be bolder repertoire, sung by artists committed or specially suited to that music. Expect the singers to be accompanied by piano, and a new sound system to carry voices across the property.

No wonder many listeners typically arrive early to claim a good spot, as they might on the lawn at Blossom Music Center or a free concert on Cleveland’s Mall B.

“Once people are here, they’re going to recognize the music,” Skiba said. “It’s a great gateway into the art form.”

As enjoyable as the Dunham Tavern concert is for the audience, it may be even more rewarding for the singers.

Rain may be a persistent threat, and humidity may play tricks on the voice, but few things for a performer compare to what the Dunham Tavern concert affords under any conditions: a rare opportunity to connect with an enormous crowd in the great outdoors.

For singers and listeners alike, Skiba said, “It’s always very freeing.”


Cleveland Opera Theater

What: Free outdoor concert.

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26.

Where: Historic Dunham Tavern Museum, 6709 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.

Tickets: Free. $100 VIP tickets available. Go to clevelandoperatheater.org.

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