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New York Opera Fest brings inventive music to bars, gardens and garages in NYC

Written by
Kurt Gottschalk

NYC's opera scene is at its most open and inviting in decades, and nobody seems as anxious to tear down the imaginary walls keeping novices out of the halls as the New York Opera Festival. Now in its second year, the fest isn’t even stopping at the halls, as it brings productions to playgrounds and bars, a neighborhood garden and a converted garage. Through June 23, 20 companies in will stage 28 different productions throughout the city, and usually on the cheap. There will nearly be a soprano in distress on every street corner. Here are the shows not to miss.

Flash Operas
The composer collective Experiments in Opera put on some wildly innovative new works over the past several years. This weekend it offers a half-dozen new operas, none more than 15 minutes long. Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway. May 5 at 8pm; $25.

L’Elisir d’Amore
Gaetano Donizetti’s 1832 comic romance sees two productions during the fest: first, a full staging by Regina Opera Company in May, and in June, an immersive outdoor rendition in which elementary school kids are guided through the writing, designing, costuming and performance of the work. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 5902 Sixth Ave, Brooklyn. May 10 at 11am; free preview. May 13, 14, 20, 21 at 3pm; $26. · P.S. 129 playground, 425 W 130th St. June 15 at 11am; free.

Fireworks and Lady Bird
Hunter Opera Theater presents a double bill of premieres: Kitty Brazelton’s speculative work about aliens landing on the Fourth of July and Henry Mollicone’s telling of Lady Bird Johnson stumping for her husband’s reelection after the passing of the civil rights bill. Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 695 Park Ave. May 11, 12 at 7:30pm; $15.

Sign & Sing: Explorations 
Sign & Sing presents works by Terrence McNally, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar with with sign language interpretation, open captioning and assisted-listening devices. Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway. May 21 at 3pm; $25.

Mezzo soprano Judith Barnes performs Benjamin Britten’s rarely heard 1975 solo cantata during an evening of short and challenging works in an airy Williamsburg gallery. LEIMAY Cave, 58 Grand St, Brooklyn. June 10 at 8pm; $TBA.

La Mère Coupable 
On-Site Opera joins forces with the exceptional International Contemporary Ensemble to mark Darius Milhaud’s 125th birthday with the U.S. premiere of his adaptation of the final chapter of the Figaro trilogy in a converted garage owned and maintained by fashion designer Kenneth Cole. The Garage, 611 W 50th St. June 20, 22–24 at 7pm; $60.

New York Opera Fest is April 27–June 23 ( Various prices.

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