European Cabaret! Vintage Americana! Balkan Belly Dance! Neo-Classical Opera! Old World Yiddish Theater! Welcome to the six-piece, Portland, Oregon-based Vagabond Opera.
Based in the Pacific Northwest, yet encompassing the world, Vagabond Opera delivers passionate offerings of Bohemian cabaret. Paris hotJazz, gut bucket swing, Tangos, Ukrainian folk-punk ballads, Klezmer and vigorous originals meet a world of riverboat gambling queens, Turkish belly dancers, and the enigmatic Marlene Dietrich. Weaving elements of Kurt Weil, Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf with absurdist flair, theatrics and an old world mood, Vagabond Opera presents the new wave of opera-lusty (trained) voices singing in 13 languages and presenting a cabaret of rich musical phrasing, sparkling lyrics and indomitable stage presence, all played with exuberance, skill and a gritty Vagabond edge. This is Opera liberated and reinvented for everyone.
The band’s lineup features trained operatic tenor and soprano vocals, accordion, tenor and alto saxophones, cello, stand-up bass, drums, and, when the mood is right, a burlesque hoola-hooping fire performer.
Vagabond Opera is at the vanguard of a growing popularity in the Neo-cabaret phenomenon, and through their theatrical performances, lyrics in 13 languages, and an eclectic repertoire, they liberate opera from its usual construct, expanding musical and theatrical biodiversity. Vagabond Opera has performed all over the USA, including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. They have been featured on NPR, in the Washington Post and Jazziz Magazine, and have shared stages and players with Pink Martini, The Decembrists, Al Franken and the Oregon Symphony. Vagabond opera has two full-length albums and will be releasing their third album in the Summer of 2008.
Vagabond Opera was created in 2002 by European-trained opera singer and composer Eric Stern. Then disillusioned with the classical opera world, Stern created a new context for opera: Performance on a more intimate scale incorporating not only opera but elements of Weimar Cabaret, Arabic and Balkan forms, and the original music that springs from the ensemble’s fertile creative work. This is not your granny’s opera, but a visceral artistic ensemble that features powerful instrumental and vocal performances coupled with a highly eclectic and theatrical experience.
Eric Stern: The Northwest’s own premiere operatic tenor, accordionist, pianist, composer and consummate showman was trained in Europe. He has performed there and in the U.S. and Canada garnering critical acclaim for his musicianship and his stunningly imaginative songwriting.
Jason Flores: His previous flirtation with Middle Eastern and Balkan music became focused when he met Armenian American master clarinetist Souren Baronian in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jason has spent his time since moving to Portland, Oregon in 2000 studying, transcribing, and performing ethnic music, gypsy jazz, and swing. His original compositions combine these eclectic influences.
Mark Burdon: Drummer/composer Mark Burdon’s fluid, textural style is an amalgam of diverse influences including over a decade of work as part of the jazz scene on the East Coast and extensive studies of African and Brazilian styles of music.
Robin Jackson: Robin Jackson is a dynamic and creative musical visionary, a true neo-bohemian with a flair for the dramatic. His optimistic and enthusiastic approach to life, combined with a diverse range of skills in a variety of performance fields, have led him to great success in the artistic world. As an active participant in the “west coast neo-cabaret scene,” Robin seeks to utilize the power of art to inspire a world based on ecological sustainability & integrity
Skip vonKuske: Skip vonKuske’s least favorite statement is, “You must be classically trained”, though he was indeed. During the first 10 years of playing the cello he was a member of The Esade String Quartet, recieving chamber music instruction, and private lessons from numerous Philadelphia Orchestra string players.
Lesley Kernochan: After I learned to walk, I developed this singing reaction to being well fed. Thus, every night after dinner I would burst into my own mock opera as I cleaned the kitchen. I’m quite sure my parents and sisters loved it although the only feedback I got was from my mother plugging her ears and saying “too high, my dear, too high.” Anyway, the point is that I’ve always loved to sing