It’s summer in Milwaukee—the magical three months or so each year that the weather finally cooperates and everyone, it seems, heads outside to take in all this city has to offer.
If you think your love of being outside and seeing great opera performances don’t jibe, think again.
The Florentine Opera has more than a dozen free or low-cost community performances throughout Southeast Wisconsin in June and July.
“This is truly our ‘value added’ to the community,” said General Director William Florescu. “This community engagement in the truest sense, and gives the community at large an opportunity to experience the Florentine Opera at the ground level.”
Many of the performances happen at Colectivo Coffee Roaster locations. The partnership between the Florentine and Colectivo is celebrating 15 years this summer.
“That was when we hosted our very first Lakefront cafe concert, ‘Classics at the Lake’ featuring members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Florentine,” said Ramie Camarena, Events and Communications Manager for Colectivo Coffee said. “The concert paved the way for our Florentine Carols and Florentine at the Lake series, which continue to this day.”
Before the partnership with Colectivo, the Florentine was providing high-quality, low-cost outdoor opera concerts for Milwaukee families for generations. From the 1940-60s, Florentine founder John David Anello conducted the Music Under the Stars concerts in Washington Park, which would draw thousands of people each summer. The partnerships with Colectivo and other local venues continue this legacy.
“This unique for-profit/non-profit relationship has been beneficial to both organizations, particularly since we have our homes in Riverwest,” said Florescu. “It’s a great partnership to give back to our community in its largest sense.”
“We place a lot of importance on supporting the local arts organizations that help make Milwaukee a vibrant and creative city. With that in mind, we’re proud to count Florentine Opera among our longest-running community partners,” said Camarena.
For those who feel opera, like coffee, is an acquired taste, Camarena said these summer concerts provide the perfect laid-back setting to sample something new. Audiences here anything from Broadway to jazz alongside opera classics.
“Our cafe concerts give us the opportunity to share world-class talent with our customers, while allowing Florentine to perform for current and budding opera fans in an approachable, nontraditional setting. It’s terrific to see Florentine patrons in regular attendance, but it’s also really cool to see customers and neighbors stopping by and enjoying a sometimes unexpected musical treat,” said Camarena.
Camarena said the experience goes beyond hearing opera favorites. You might learn something, too.
“I also appreciate having the opportunity to learn the stories behind the pieces being performed. It’s great to hear Bill Florescu and Scott Stewart give behind-the-scenes history and context. Plus, Bill is a pretty good comedian!” she said.
“This is the Florentine at is most relaxed,” said Florescu. “Come out and experience it, whether you’re an opera veteran or a newbie.”
Summer concerts at Colectivo begin on Thursday, June 8 at 7pm. The Florentine will also perform at Estabrook Beer Garden, Festa Italiana, and other venues around the area.