Unique Hip Opera headed to Meijer Gardens

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Created by Opera Grand Rapids, Tuesday night’s first-ever production will star DJ Chuck, a string ensemble, dancers and an ‘authentic’ vibe. The details at Local Spins.

Coming to Grand Rapids and Melding with Opera Grand Rapids: L.A.’s Chuck D (Courtesy Photo)


At first blush, the theatrical art form of opera might not seem to have much in common with hip hop.

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After all, the history of opera dates back more than 400 years, while hip hop just celebrated its 50th birthday.

But there are remarkable similarities between the librettos of an opera production and the bars and rhymes of modern hip hop, not to mention similarities between the development of the genres.

That makes the first-ever “Hip Opera” taking place Tuesday at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park a vastly intriguing and entertaining performance likely to attract fans of both opera and rap.

“The performance will be a love letter from opera to hip hop, as it celebrates 50 years as a genre of music,” said Emilee Syrewicze, executive director of Opera Grand Rapids, who first came up with the idea back in 2019 but couldn’t make it come to life until now due to the COVID pandemic.

“We’ve distilled the 400-year history of opera into a 50-year timeline, and it pairs remarkably well with the evolutionary points of hip hop. We are going to feature live opera singers and musicians performing opera arias fused with hip-hop songs.”

Taking place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday inside Meijer Gardens’ Garden Pavilion as part of the gardens’ “Winter Nights” series, Hip Opera will feature Los Angeles producer DJ Chuck performing alongside violinist and arranger Duo Shen and a string ensemble.

DJ Chuck is founder of the international hip-hop group Honor Flow Productions and head of music creation for Los Angeles’ MojaMoja, which curates live and virtual experiences. (View a video below.)

Shen is assistant conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony.


“We have produced and arranged all of the music ourselves, so I’m happy to say this will be a unique experience for the audience,” Syrewicze said. “We’ll have dancers performing as well – classical and hip-hop dance fusion.”

The program will include a chronological lineup of hits from both genres, combined with narratives about their similar evolutionary paths.

Duo Shen (Courtesy Photo)

While Syrewicze conceded that Opera Grand Rapids hopes the event will attract a younger audience, she noted that nearly 30 percent of the opera company’s single ticketholders already are under the age of 40.

“Our overall goal with programming like this is to showcase opera as an art form compatible with other mainstream music,” she said. “While we want to make opera converts out of hip-hop fans, we also want to make hip-hop fans out of opera lovers.”

That said, “Hip Opera” won’t shy away from explicit lyrics in some songs, an effort “to be authentic to hip hop as an art form.” Part of the show, therefore, may not be suitable for young audience members.

The concert is included with regular admission to Meijer Gardens: $20 for adults, with discounts for seniors and children. “Winter Nights” are free for Meijer Gardens members.

VIDEO: Honor Flow Productions
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VIDEO: Opera Grand Rapids (“Experience It”)
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