Florida Grand Opera Courts Hipsters In South Beach Bar

Feb 27, 2014

'Hell is other people.' Singers with the Florida Grand Opera rehearse 'No Exit,' an opera based on Jean-Paul Sartre's existential masterpiece.
Credit Florida Grand Opera

Leave your tuxedo, evening gown and lorgnette at home and come as you are.

That’s the message from Florida Grand Opera, the Sunshine State’s oldest arts organization.

“It really is an entertainment for all people, not just folks dripping in diamonds,” says Florida Grand Opera director Susan Danis. 

This is Danis’ first full season as the opera company’s CEO. And she’s working hard to disabuse people of the notion that opera is all about zaftig women with braided hair and horn helmets caterwauling onstage.

“Those stereotypes have been portrayed in cartoons people saw as kids, in advertising,” says Danis, who spent 14 years as director of the Sarasota Opera. “And it’s anything but the truth.”

So far, FGO’s offerings this season have been markedly different from the usual operatic crowd-pleasers (many of which revolve around a dying courtesan).

The season opener was “Mourning Becomes Electra,” a contemporary opera that premiered in New York City in 1967. And this week, with help from a Knight Arts grant, Florida Grand Opera will present  “No Exit,” based on the 1944 existentialist play by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The opera will be staged at a South Beach nightclub, as part of the company’s “Unexpected Operas in Unexpected Places” program.

Danis says it’s interesting to say "existential" and "Miami" in the same breath. But taking opera out of the opera house and into a bar? No biggie.

“We have one of the youngest audiences in America. If you come on a Friday night, you know that people are going to the opera and then going out to the club.  We have a really vibrant and hip audience,” she says.

And since you just can’t beat technology for drawing in a younger crowd – on Saturday, March 1, “No Exit” will be streamed live online. 

Florida Grand Opera presents ‘No Exit’ at 10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 through Saturday, March 1,  at Arena Lounge, 653 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

"No Exit" will also be offered via live streaming on Saturday, March 1 at 10 p.m. The opera can be viewed at no charge by clicking the "No Exit" live streaming banner at www.fgo.org