It’s Maestro Michael Fennelly’s contention that opera “reinvents itself” for every generation, and that legacy of entertainment will explode on stage when the Bad Boys of Opera open the Cailloux Performance Series on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
“In the 19th century, there was no music more ‘pop’ than opera,” said Fennelly, who formed the group and acts as pianist, arranger, producer, and music director. “Opera has always been popular–it just has had to reinvent itself like any art form.”
He traces the current resurgence in the popularity of opera back to the Three Tenors who arose in the 1990s, creating a successful model that some purists refer to as “Popera.” Fennelly does not hide the fact this group will embrace that model, while maintaining a strong connection to the genre’s musical roots.
“Audiences love to see handsome young men having fun on stage, and presenting good music including Puccini, Verdi, and yes, something like the TV theme show Rawhide thrown in,” he said.
The Bad Boys consist of three highly-trained and widely-accomplished singers. They are Baritone Franco Pomponi of Chicago, Chilean Tenor Jonathan Tetleman, and Tenor Cody Austin, from Spring, Texas. They have performed to rave reviews at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and San Francisco Opera. Despite the challenges, they were able to tour quite extensively and safely last year to fill up the dearth of live stage shows left by the pandemic. This will be their first and only appearance anywhere in Central Texas.
Their show changes for every performance. Generally they will present a more serious classical repertoire during the first part, coming back after intermission with a more eclectic playlist that might include everything from Carmen, Danny Boy, and Rhapsody in Blue, to Coldplay, Willie Nelson, and Elvis. There will be a costume change, and some props including a motorcycle on stage. In fact, Fennelly has been known to arrange a motorcycle “ride-in” the day before a show so people can mix with his stars.
The artists never get too stuffy, and enjoy interaction with the audience.
“People respond to opera in a way that's not like popular music, because they've never really heard it live before,” Fennelly said. “And if you present it in a way that is contemporary, there's this visceral response that you just can't help but to respond to. It's a physical feeling. People have never heard voices like this. Young people go crazy.”
Fennelly wants people of all ages and musical tastes to give this show a try. He knows no one will go home disappointed.
“I don't want people to think that they're coming to a big slick Broadway show. Really what it is, is vaudeville, the continuation of that 19th century tradition, where you go to the theaters and it's live, and it’s really exciting!”