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Beer + Opera = a fantastic evening

Posted October 19, 2012 | 11:00 am, by Mirella

What could be more fun than a beer tasting set to music?

Beer Tasting ProgramLast month, with the help of my friend, opera singer Melanie Esseltine, I hosted the most unusual beer tasting I’ve put together so far…

The beer tasting was called Hopera and each beer was paired with an operatic aria, duet or ensemble. It took over a year to make it happen, and although we thought it was a recipe for the ultimate evening, we weren’t sure how Torontoians would react to the idea…

Beer & Opera are actually quite similar!

Beer and Opera seem like two completely different art forms and yet, from the perspective of someone who’s worked in both fields, I find that the two actually have a lot in common. I outlined these commonalities in a live Pecha-Kucha presentation that I gave in Toronto to promote Hopera.

Pairing beer with opera is something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I started working in beer. Then, last year, I bumped into Melanie at a pub and found she’d had the same idea. We decided to give it a go. There were some challenges along the way, but with the support of six Ontario breweries and Habits Gastropub, we were eventually able to put the event together and start promoting it as a part of Toronto Beer Week 2012.

As it turns out, we got a great response even before the event took place! We got a fantastic write-up in The Grid, followed by a prominent mention in The Toronto Star. Add to this a segment on CBC Radio and the event was soon sold out.

The idea behind Hopera

It’s interesting because many people that I spoke to before the event thought that the idea behind Hopera was to “elevate beer” by bringing it together with opera, which is widely seen as highbrow.  Although I was aware that this would be a common perception, that isn’t what Hopera is about for me.

  • First of all, as I discussed in an earlier blog post, I am not a fan of the idea of “elevating beer to the status of wine”. It’s beer.
  • Secondly, I am quite familiar with opera, having completed a degree in vocal performance, and I don’t see opera as “sophisticated” or “serious”. It’s awesome!

The idea behind opera was to create the ultimate evening, by combining two fantastic things, and to open doors: introduce opera lovers to craft beer and introduce craft beer fans to opera. It was to share two of my passions and inspire people to look at both opera and beer in a new way. Before each pairing, Melanie provided a description of the piece and I then guided the audience through a brief tasting of the beer, explaining why I had chosen this particular beer for the pairing

 How it went…

As it turns out, Hopera was very well received (yay, Toronto!) and we were delighted to have piqued the curiosity of  such a wide range of people. We’ve had two write-ups about the event so far; one in View the Vibe and the other on a game design website. We also got some great testimonials from participants. Here is a small selection:

  • By far, one of the best nights out. Amazing beers that I would otherwise not try… Local talent, local pub, local brewery. What’s better?” – Liise  Broger
  • Hopera combines delicious beer tastings with beautiful music. It allowed me to introduce my friends to opera in a way that they enjoyed – they even agreed to go to the Four Seasons with me this winter!” – Jasmine Frolick
  • Yes! this was an amazing event; a betterment to the arts community and an excellent addition to the cultural scene in Toronto” – James
  • Had so much fun!!! Mirella made everyone feel so welcome and the knowledge she gave us on each beer was amazing. Melanie gave such interesting & fun information. The pieces performed came alive. The performers-wow!! So well done. I had goose bumps in many songs. A great evening of entertainment and then there was beer too! You need to repeat this. Many more fortunate patrons need to hear and enjoy this evening.” -Sue Devereux
  • Do it Again! and again…and again” -Jack
For me, Hopera really was the ultimate evening. I am so happy to have finally brought this idea to fruition and share it with others. I do hope to have the opportunity to put together more Hopera events in the future. If you’d like to be kept in the loop about upcoming editions of Hopera and other BeerologyTM events, feel free to join my mailing list.

All photos courtesy of View the Vibe



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