Three things I learned at LoftOpera, Brooklyn's classiest underground event

Instead of Lincoln Center, LoftOpera audiences are lining up outside unmarked doors in industrial Brooklyn. This Week in NY editor Sarah Theeboom investigates high culture in Bushwick.

LoftOpera's La Boheme, March 2014

LoftOpera's La Boheme, March 2014 Photograph: Sarah Theeboom

I first heard about LoftOpera when a colleague mentioned that it had been popping up on her Instagram feed. Curious, I looked it up, and it turns out to be exactly what it sounds like: Operas staged in Brooklyn loft spaces. The company grew out of a community of music students, and has mounted three productions since May 2013. On Saturday, I went to the closing night of its most recent show, La bohème, held in an Ingraham Street warehouse near the Jefferson L stop. Here's what I learned:  

La bohème belongs in Bushwick
It's perfect. After all, the story—about a group of young, broke artists living and loving in 1830s Paris—inspired the musical Rent. The warehouse location didn't just lend underground cred to the proceedings, it was exactly the right contemporary setting for Puccini's bohemian tale. Other small 2014 updates—including four-letter expletives and a Lower East Side shout-out—helped localize the already relatable theme of trying to make it in the big city.

Opera audiences aren't snooty
Despite the complete outage of the L train, it was a full house, and people had to be turned away at the door. Uptowners arrived via MTA shuttle bus, respectable-looking middle-aged audience members rolled up their coats and sat on the floor, and during intermission, an elderly couple with a cane waited stoically in line for the Porta-Potty without so much as a peep about standing in the cold on an industrial Brooklyn block.

Opera might be getting cool
Currently, LoftOpera has cultural cachet: It's young, it has an underground flavor, it operates outside the highbrow establishment, and it's cheap enough ($20 tickets, $5 drinks) to entice an audience that the Met doesn't. Each production's run is short and increasingly buzzed-about, and we're told more are in the works. So keep an eye on LoftOpera's website—this is the thing you want to go to before your friends have heard about it.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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