Santa Cruz Opera Project
Santa Cruz Opera Project

Think opera is stuffy? Snooty? Snobby—full of tuxedo-wearing aristocrats with Galilean binoculars in one hand and a Manhattan in the other? Fugeddaboutit.

Santa Cruz Opera Project is looking to flip the script on those preconceived notions, and the group is excited to bring their laid-back operatic approach to people who might not otherwise be drawn to that genre of entertainment.

“We believe that opera is for everyone,” said Lori Schulman, general director of SCOP, who is prepping for the company’s summer production of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus – The Revenge of the Bat,” which debuted in Vienna in 1874.

Schulman co-founded Santa Cruz Opera Project with two colleagues; the primary mission is to make opera accessible to all people.

“We noticed a lack of an opera company in Santa Cruz for several years and observed that many individuals have never experienced opera or hold misconceptions that it ‘isn’t for them,’” said Schulman, who is positively giddy over the upcoming program. “Opera has historically been viewed as an elitist art form, accessible only to the wealthy and educated. We seek to break down these barriers and bring high-quality opera to our community that engages both long-time opera lovers and newcomers alike.”

The group’s 2023 production of “La Boheme” kicked off the idea of opera in unconventional spaces. Instead of performing in antiquated ornate theaters with red velvet curtains and fainting couches, SCOP is holding their programs in the barrel rooms of wineries and breweries. 

Instead of expecting patrons to appear in their high-society best, the audience is welcome to come in comfort, whether it’s jeans and T-shirts or shorts and hoodies.

“We want to remove the stigma that opera is only for a certain segment of the population. It’s for everyone, and we’re ready to break down those barriers that prevent younger generations from enjoying the arts in this format,” Schulman said.

In an effort to get front and center with a new demographic, SCOP productions remove the fourth wall of theater. (The fourth wall is a conceptual barrier that separates the audience from the actors in a work of fiction, such as film, television or theater. The wall is invisible to the audience, but opaque to the actors, blocking them from the audience.)

Performers are just a foot or two away from audience members, and the expectation of sitting in one seat for two hours is removed thanks to the low-key environs where the operettas are performed. (An opera is a musical production that is performed entirely in song, whereas an operetta incorporates dialogue into the program. Operettas are often satirical and witty, and tend to be much shorter and less complex than traditional operas.)

By contemporizing the productions, Schulman and her team are excited to open up the world of opera to Santa Cruz. 

“Andrea Hart will direct this production, and my colleague Jordan Best and I have collaborated with Andrea to write our own adaptation of this classic,” Schulman said. “We’ve modernized it to reflect the Santa Cruz community, incorporated gender-blind casting, and will be performing in two different winery barrel rooms (MJA Vineyards in Santa Cruz and El Vaquero Winery in Corralitos) to offer our audience a unique, comfortable and immersive experience.”

Schulman added, “We’ll feature a five-piece chamber orchestra, and we are planning various engaging ways for the audience to participate in the action,” including a blow-out party featuring champagne for all in the second half of the show.

With live music, a convivial setting and an interactive approach to opera, SCOP is sure to bring a little culture to Santa Cruz.

“Die Fledermaus” has several performances on tap:

  • Wednesday, June 12, at 6pm is a “Pay what you can” performance at MJA Vineyards
  • Friday, June 14, at 6pm at MJA Vineyards
  • Sunday, June 16, at 1pm at MJA Vineyards
  • Wednesday, June 19, at 7pm at El Vaquero Winery
  • Sunday, June 23, at 5pm at El Vaquero Winery

Want to expand your cultural horizons? Visit for information, tickets and more.

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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