Thankfully, creator and Master Cicerone Mirella Amato agreed to let me ask her a few questions about this unique event! Check them out below the cut.
Can you talk a bit about the Hopera Quartus? What is it? How and why did it start?
Hopera combines a live performance of operatic excerpts in an intimate setting with a tasting of local craft beer. It’s a show I put on with the assistance of musical director Melanie Esseltine. She and I met at McGill University, where we were both attending the opera program as singers. When I started working in beer, I had this idea to create an event that would bring together my two passions, but it seemed a daunting task so I put it on the back burner.
We were finally able to put on the first show in 2012. It sold out and we had so much fun doing it that we decided to create annual editions. Hopera Quartus is our fourth show. The last edition won ‘Drinker’s Choice for Best Toronto Beer Week Event’! To get a better idea of the show, I recommend reading the Torontoist article.
If it’s not revealing any trade secrets, can you talk about how you pair beer with Opera? I think most of us are more familiar with beer and food pairings, and are perhaps curious about how you pair things which — at least on the surface — stimulate different senses?
My pairings are playful, but there is a message I’m trying to convey: There is a beer for every food, mood, and occasion. We don’t drink the same wine to toast New Years as we do when we’re enjoying a steak; we pick our wine based on the occasion and context. There are still too many people who limit their beer drinking to one brand or style.
Hopera introduces the notion that you may want to choose the beer you drink based on your mood; if you’re feeling upbeat and social, an effervescent, refreshing beer will feel right, while a rich slow-sipping beer might take you out of the moment. I match the beer with the mood of the piece. Melanie and I also have fun finding connections to the plot and text.
Can you talk about the beers and the performers specifically? Are they local?
Both are listed on our website. We believe in paying our musicians and this wouldn’t be possible without the breweries who sponsor the event, all local to Ontario. Without revealing specifics, I can tell you four things about the beer selection:
1) I hand-picked all the beers to make sure they would pair well with the songs
2) All the beers are DELICIOUS
3) The selection is varied and covers a wide range of styles, flavours, and moods!
4) None of the beers we pair with music have been featured at Hopera before; we have a lot of audience members who come every year and I want to make sure they’re discovering new beers and songs with every edition.
You’re not only the first woman in Canada to become a Certified Cicerone™, but you’re also the first Canadian to earn the Master Cicerone™ title. Can you talk about what a Cicerone is and does?
These certifications are the equivalent to sommelier accreditations in the wine world. I’m like a Master Sommelier, but for beer. I am very proud to be the only person in Canada to have passed the 14 hour Master Cicerone exam. For those who have seen the movie Somm, you get the picture!
What can audiences expect to experience at the Hopera Quartus? What would this event look like for people who are new to both opera and craft beer?
Nothing can prepare you for the sensory experience of live, close-up opera combined with a selection of delicious beer. We guide the crowd, providing context and insights into both the music and the beer. It is pretty geeky, and TONS of fun. The audience is usually quite mixed:
1) Craft beer enthusiasts who aren’t familiar with opera and are open to new experiences
2) Opera lovers who aren’t necessarily keen on beer but drawn to the rare opportunity to see opera in an intimate setting
3) Mixed groups, where some are into opera and some are into craft beer
4) People who love both opera and beer and are excited to enjoy both at once
5) People who are just intrigued by the event
Finally, where — ideally — do you see this event going in the future? Where can people go to learn more about this event, and also about Beerology?
I’d love mount four editions of Hopera per year, which will require a grant or a sponsor. In the meantime, I’m happy to continue mounting yearly editions.
- Hopera Quartus will play September 21st and 22nd at The Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton Street)
- Showtimes are 8pm
- Ticket prices are $41.73, and are available online. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door for $45.
- You can also check out Mirella’s Book, Beerology, or follow her online:
Photo of performers provided by the company. Interview has been condensed.