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Palm Beach Opera performs free concert at West Palm Beach waterfront

Palm Beach Opera lures new audience with digital extras, free concerts, pop-up shows.

Free opera!

Sounds boring, you say?

Well, folks, this isn’t your grandma’s opera.

For one thing, you can wear shorts and flip flops. And, you can drink and eat during the show at which you’re encouraged to tweet, Facebook and Instagram.

Saturday’s Opera @ The Waterfront by Palm Beach Opera at downtown West Palm Beach’s Meyer Amphitheatre is aimed at families, young people, and those who are opera-curious, but grandma is welcome, too.

At the free and digitally-friendly show, audience members can follow along with the singers on a free phone app that will offer translations while telling audience members stories about the arias and the artists.

“This democratizes opera,” said Ceci Dadisman, communications director of Palm Beach Opera. “The regular performances at the Kravis Center may not always be feasible for people. This is our way of bringing opera to our community.”

About 100 professional singers and musicians will perform some of opera’s most beloved and recognizable tunes in what the Opera says is South Florida’s largest outdoor classical music concert.

Audiences for the free concert have risen steadily since they began two years ago, when 2,500 people came. Last year, that figure rose to 4,000 and Dadisman hopes to have 5,000 in attendance by the time the first notes are sung Saturday afternoon.

The yearly free outdoor performance is one way Palm Beach Opera is trying to attract a new, younger audience. Staging more contemporary works, such as last year’s premier of “Enemies, A Love Story,” set in 1940s New York City, is another.

So is Pop-Up Opera.

Tenor Robert Watson, a member of the Opera’s Young Artists program, silenced the happy hour buzz at CityPlace’s City Cellars Friday night when, standing by the bar, he suddenly burst into a tune from Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Watson finished to applause and cries of “Bravo.”

Other Opera Pop-ups are planned for City Cellars and Table 26 restaurant in West Palm Beach, said Dadisman, who prefers not to announce the dates and times for these cultural appetizers.

“We’re trying to have unexpected opera moments at unexpected places,” she said.

A few weeks ago, during a DJ-led party for the city’s CANVAS Outdoor Museum show, some Palm Beach Opera cast members began singing opera. The DJ laid down some beats behind the music, Dadisman said, delighting partygoers who demanded they perform the cross-pollination again later that night.

In February, the opera will venture to Palm Beach Improv at CityPlace, normally home to raunchy comedians, for a night of opera and musical theatre.

“We’re trying to bring opera to people in all places,” said Dadisman. “Opera doesn’t need to only exist in the Kravis Center.”

And yes, in January the Opera will still present three mainstage shows at the Kravis Center, which include “Carmen,” “Don Pasquale,” and “Ariadne Auf Naxos,” as well as lunch-and-learn sessions and a children’s performance of “Don Pasquale.”

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