What do you get when you mix Tom Waits, Tim Armstrong, Oliver Twist, and maybe just a dash of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids? It’s the Vagabond Opera, and they’re bringing their rollicking big band/folk/punk/vaudeville/opera freak-out to the Majestic.
The Portland band (like I needed to tell you they were from Portland) has been around since 2002 when Eric Stern, noted writer and solo musician, formed the group with the goal of transforming opera into a more eclectic experience.
Stern was trained in classical opera at the Delaware Valley Opera Company, having grown up in Philadelphia. After a brief stint trying his luck on the streets of Paris, he returned to the States, moved to Portland (where every mustache finds a home) and Vagabond took off.
They’ve performed all over the country, including the Kennedy Center, and all over the world, singing songs in 13 languages that are infused with Balkan and Arab influences, among others. Stern even wrote a two-act opera in which the Vagabond music was featured, called Queen of Knives. He also starred in the two-act libretto, which premiered in Portland in 2010.
The stage show is bawdy and jovial, and Stern oversees a circus of musical energy. The band also features saxophonist and ethnomusicologist Robin Jackson, who helps provide the historical flavor that is essential to the band’s sound. Perhaps their most recognizable member, though, is cellist Skip vonKuske from the Portland Cello Project and Cellotronik. He’s basically your run-of-the-mill virtuoso, composer and performer; no big deal.
Vagabond is a great show to see at an Oktoberfest on the streets of Munich, or at a gypsy caravan in a forest outside Prague. But they’ll still probably be pretty good at the Majestic…
Vagabond Opera will perform at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door and $15 in advance, available online at www.majestic.org.