Monday, November 9, 2009

On opera, bull riding and Coyote Joe's

James Meena calls it a collision of two different worlds -- opera and show tunes performed at Coyote Joe's, the cavernous country-western music, bull-riding nightclub on Wilkinson Boulevard.

The Cliff agrees.

Meena is general director and principal conductor of Opera Carolina. Thursday, the company's fundraising arm, Opera Guild of Charlotte, is throwing a fundraiser at Coyote Joe's. There'll be a little opera, some Broadway tunes, a few pop numbers, mixed in with line dancing to Coyote Joe's country-western band.

They are calling the event: "Opera Cabaret: From Bizet to Broadway, With a Little Bit of Country."

Chances are you'll see opera fans used to wearing tuxedos and gowns to events, in denim and cowboy hats, doing a little Slappin' Leather to Travis Tritt's "T-R-O-U-B-L-E."

"In my wildest imagination I could not have anticipated this eclectic mix of music, at a very special place like Coyote Joe's," Meena said. "It's going to be a hoot and holler."

The fundraiser's proceeds will go to Opera Carolina's education programs. The company goes into schools and community centers in the Carolinas and northern Georgia to perform and teach students about opera. It also provides yearly scholarships for five to six emerging singers for private lessons, continuing education and career development.

The company's operating funds, like those of most nonprofits, have taken a hit in the recession. So the fundraiser is important for Opera Carolina's financial health. The event will serve as the kick-off to National Opera Week that will celebrate opera companies across America starting Friday.

Never has Opera Carolina, founded in 1948 as Charlotte Music Club, had a fundraiser like Thursday's.

The three-segment event will open with a few selections of classic opera and light opera, Broadway and pop songs all performed by singers of Opera Carolina. The second segment will be line dancing and country-western music -- followed another segment of opera and Broadway tunes.

If enough money is raised, Meena has promised to ride the mechanical bull.

The event's chair, Gigi Lefler, admits it's an odd mix.

But maybe not: "We all have the same stories, just different kinds of music," Lefler said. "We wanted to use this concept to think outside the box and show people that opera is not as intimidating as a great many think.

"Everybody sings opera, even the garbage collectors in Italy."

She acknowledged that the opera crowd, too, may learn a little something at Coyote Joe's. Most opera events are pricey. Lefler and the guild committee wanted an affordable event to spread the mission of the guild and the appeal of opera.

"This is the kind of thing we wanted to do to see if we could appeal to a wider audience," Lefler said. "... No matter what you listen to -- 50s hits, opera or country-western -- it's all the same stories.

"Hopefully people will see opera in a different light. The more we listen, the more we understand each other and why we do the things we do, the better off human relationships become and the more tolerant we become."

Want to go? The "Opera Cabaret" begins at 8 p.m. at Coyote Joe's, 4621 Wilkinson Blvd. Tickets are $30 a person, or $240 for a table of eight ($300 for VIP tables). There will be a cash bar and wine sold by the bottle. To buy tickets go to, or call 704-332-7177, ext. 210.


William said...

Down an old familiar highway
Just a few miles out of town
To that run down, one room tavern
That used to be my stompin' ground

Well I pulled in the driveway
You know it all still looked the same
And I couldn't wait to down a few
And hear that jukebox strain

But as I walked in through the doorway
Well there stood some kind of matra'd
Well he looked me up and he looked me
Down and said can I help you please

And I said what'd you do with those swingin' doors?
And where's the sawdust on the floor
Why's everybody wearin' suits and ties?
From where I stand I can't believe my eyes

And who's idea was it to hang these ferns
This brand new bar don't have a single burn
I guess I'm somewhere that I don't belong
I need a jukebox with a country song

Anonymous said...

"In opera, there is always too much singing." - Claude Debussy

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds." — Mark Twain

"Oh how wonderful, really wonderful opera would be if there were no singers!"—Gioacchino Rossini

"Mr. Wagner has beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour." Gioacchino Antonio Rossini

"Opera makes me want to reach into my skull an pull my brain out" - me