If you’re in Coolidge Corner Saturday afternoon, you might hear the operatic longing of “O mio babbino caro” or the friendly warmth of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Opera on Tap Boston, an organization focused on improving accessibility to the art form, and Brookline shoe store Simons Shoes are partnering to present Flowers and Opera. The live performance event — rescheduled for this Saturday due to rain — will take place in an alley between Simons Shoes and Paris Creperie from 4 to 5 p.m. The outdoor affair will feature a mix of classical arias, show tunes, and popular hits performed by sopranos Kathryn McKellar and Erin Anderson, accompanied on piano by Sally Naredla.
“If [people] happen to be walking by or they can’t stay for the whole thing, they’ll get a nice taste of everything,” Anderson, a choir member at First Church in Boston, said.
That can mean anything from Verdi’s “Sul fil d’un soffio etesio” to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “A Cockeyed Optimist” to the Édith Piaf ballad “La Vie en Rose.” Opera on Tap Boston, a local chapter of an international network started in 2005, has performed in nontraditional venues like the Burren, an Irish pub in Somerville. When it takes performances to unexpected spaces, people are “floored,” Matthew Kerstein, the next generation owner of Simons Shoes, said.
The outdoor performance will be “a bit of a pop-up for people walking down the street,” Kerstein said.
To celebrate spring and local business, Simons Shoes will provide free bouquets — arranged from flowers purchased at Albert’s of Brookline Florist — for attendees to take home after the performance. Additionally, attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods and non-perishable items for Simons Shoes’ donation drive supporting Brookline Food Pantry. In the hour leading up to the performances and the hour afterward, Simons Shoes will have DJ’ed music.
Seating will be limited, so attendees may also bring their own.
This month’s Flowers and Opera event is not the first time opera has filled Brookline streets. Opera on Tap Boston performed several socially-distanced iterations of Flowers and Opera between 2020 and 2021, but couldn’t hold an event in 2022 due to construction.
Kerstein said he hopes live music in the Coolidge Corner area will help it become as culturally lively as the North End or Harvard Square. “I was interested as a local business owner in creating more of that kind of environment,” Kerstein said.
McKellar, who’s the executive and artistic director of Opera on Tap Boston, said the organization creates the performances’ programming by considering well-known arias that the average person can recognize, in addition to contemporary pieces.
“We want opera to feel like it’s a safe space for everyone, that everybody belongs in this art form,” McKellar said.
Pop-up events allow for an element of surprise: “The cool thing about Opera on Tap events is you never know who’s going to show up, but generally no matter who shows up, the reactions are not only positive but like shock[ed] in how much they have enjoyed themselves,” Anderson said.
FLOWERS AND OPERA
May 27, 4-5 p.m. Simons Shoes, 282 Harvard St., Brookline. Free. operaontapboston.com/events/flowers-and-opera-may2023
Abigail Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.