In what is arguably the world's first branded opera, Peroni Nastro Azzuro have teamed up with contemporary electronica producer Kwes and GO Opera to re-imagine Italian opera classics covering Verdi's La Traviata, Puccini's La Bohème and La Rondine. As established masterpieces, at first glance this would seem to be a tall order and when you factor in the common preconceptions about opera and its stereotypical aged and well-healed audiences, mixing trendy beer with opera might not seem like the ideal cocktail.
However, opera and its timeless stories of love, loss and sacrifice appeal to all of us, be they articulated in the Roman amphitheatre of Verona or on the silver-screen via Pretty Woman (unashamed low-class hooker rip-off of La Traviata) or even in the first of the Twilight movies (unashamed low class overall). In recognition of this influence, musician and producer Kwes has stirred in a contemporary twist with his ethereal and colourful electronic box of tricks whilst preserving the original beauty and delicacy of some of Pucini's finest arias dealing with unrequited love. Add to this that the performances are essentially al fresco revolving around a bar dishing out cold bottles of Peroni, creative director James Hurley brings the audience intimately close to the singers as they deliver their performances mixing within with the crowd, climbing atop the bar and of course swigging beer. Meanwhile the Italian bel canto is visually projected (and translated) onto the ceilings of the purpose-made beer-tent so even the most opera-allergic of attendees can't fail to be drawn in to the true drama and passion of the story as it unfolds at their feet.
Interestingly enough, Peroni's major competitor Heineken has responded with an aggressive marketing campaign for their own Italian-style beer, so I reckon Peroni are on to something good here. Although we were only treated to a small aperitif with a couple of re-worked arias from La Rondine, the forthcoming Spring/Summer full-scale performances in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, promise to break down the usual barriers and serve opera in a way that practically any beer drinker can understand.
Words – Tahl Holtzman