Opera Thrives in a Borough More Known for Hip Hop
When it comes to opera, it's all in the family for Ben Spierman.
His mom's a singer, and she and his father founded the Bronx Opera Company in 1967. Flash forward to 2014 and Ben's the company's director. His father remains in the picture as their conductor and art director.
"Dad saw this area where there really wasn't anything there wasn't a classical music organization in the Bronx of this kind so he founded it," Spierman said.
The Spierman's hail from the Bronx, and Ben says his family would never think of moving the opera company anywhere else. But, he admits fighting stigma is a part of the repertoire.
"Bronx is a stigma because people don't know what to make of the Bronx other than the Yankees and the Botanical Garden and the Zoo and opera is a stigma because people don't quite know what to make of an opera and when you put the two together a lot of times the first reaction is this look of confusion like "Bronx opera, really?"
The Bronx Opera Company performs in English. Spierman sees that as a way to draw in people who might see opera as something only rich folks in evening gowns and tuxedos go to see. He also says it's a way to make Opera more welcoming for kids. The company is big on arts education.