Breaking Your Sound Barriers #1: Pop Opera Crossover

Breaking Your Sound Barriers is a series of blog posts related to the upcoming Sound Edge Festival, which takes place from February 10th - 18th in locations all over Birmingham, including Seasick Records. This first post comes from Keith A. Wolf, General Director of Opera Birmingham

Back in the day, opera singers enjoyed the kind of stardom we think of when we hear names like Beyoncé or the Rolling Stones – while 18th-Century women probably didn’t throw their undergarments on the stage for the famous countertenors of the day, there certainly were some off-stage antics that could rival anything by one of today’s boy bands.  It’s not surprising though, since both opera and pop music can stir up passion with their romantic love songs and handsome lead singers.

It’s also not surprising that there have been some unexpected crossovers from time-to-time, where artists (or at least the music) from one genre have inspired some interesting music.

Puccini’s La Boheme is one of the most popular operas ever written, so it’s not really a surprise that Della Reese had a hit with “Don’t You Know,” her version of Musette’s Waltz:

Almost equally recognizable is "Flower Duet" from the opera,  Lakmé.  It was sampled for LL Cool J’s “Dear Mallika", as featured on the concept album, The Rhapsody Overture, which paired rap artists with opera singers.

One of my favorites is the dance-mix cadenza from Lucia di Lammermoor sung by intergalactic opera star Plava Laguna from the movie The Fifth Element. If I had to fight alien mercenaries, this is the kind of music I would want as my background score:

Opera singers aren’t strangers to the pop stage either – divas on both sides have found common ground to create some fun music. Janet Jackson invited soprano Kathleen Battle to sing a haunting descant on her hard driving song “This Time”:

You can’t get more high camp than opera, mix in Freddie Mercury with some Montserrat Caballé and you get not just “Barcelona,”  but a whole album of original music merging the best of both singer’s voices.

On February 15, we get to see this mix of pop and opera come together live as singers from Opera Birmingham and the musicians of Future Elevators collaborate on a few unique covers from both sides of the street.  Join us at The Syndicate Lounge to see and hear this unique sonic combination.


-- Opera Birmingham and AROVA Contemporary Ballet will join Future Elevators for a unique performance at The Syndicate Lounge as part of the Sound Edge Festival. Ticket info and more can be found HERE


Daniel Drinkard