Get ready for a return of Opera Tunes at Sidetrack

Fri. October 4, 2019 3:37 PM by Ross Forman

'orphee & eurydice'

photo credit // todd rosenberg/lyric opera of chicago
Step aside, Show Tunes ...another round of Opera Tunes is coming to Sidetrack.

Opera Tunes returns to the popular Boystown video bar from 1-4 p.m., on Sunday, Oct. 6 – with proceeds benefitting the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The first Opera Tunes was held this past March and the three-hour event, co-hosted by Scott Morgan and Meaghan Stainback, raised about $3,400.

Event organizers are hoping to surpass that total in the second edition.

"We know there are loads of Chicago-area opera lovers who also identify as LGBTQ or as allies to our community," said event co-host Scott Morgan. "(We) hope to attract many more opera lovers or Sidetrack Show Tunes devotees who might be curious to experience all the fun of the event."

Morgan, 43, a Chicago-based writer, has been a runner with AFC's endurance-training program, Team To End AIDS, since 2011 – and he is again running this October's Chicago Marathon to support AFC, marking his seventh time cruising 26.2 miles on the streets of his hometown.

"I'm a big fan of both Broadway musicals and operas. When you come down to it, they're both basically musical theater," he said, "I've been a longtime fan of Sidetrack's Show Tunes and I've always wished that someone would do an Opera Tunes spinoff. Rather than wait around, I (approached) Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof with the idea as a fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. 

"I was so happy when Brad and his bosses said, 'Yes.'"

Opera Tunes is just like attending Sidetrack's thrice-weekly Show Tunes, but with video selections drawn from the operatic canon, Morgan said. "We try to feature English subtitles whenever possible. We're also presenting a silent auction fundraiser as part of Opera Tunes."

Opera Tunes attendees will receive two drink tickets with the admission donation of $25.

"I'm so grateful that Sidetrack co-owners Art Johnston and José 'Pepe' Peña let me work with in-house video editor Russell Daughtery," Morgan said. "Russell was a stickler in guiding me to whittle down my selections drawn from more than four centuries of operatic music, (trimming it) down to three hours of footage. Russell and I were nervous in the buildup to the (first) event because we weren't sure how people would react to seeing opera clips at Sidetrack.

"Russell and I specifically chose opera selections from enduring hits like Bizet's 'Carmen,' Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly,' Verdi's 'La traviata' or the Ring Cycle by Wagner. The general public should immediately recognize most of these tunes since they've been featured in cartoons, commercials, movies and TV shows. We also tried to pick the most visually interesting clips, plus a few of my own personal favorites."

Much of the footage at the October event will be recycled and shuffled around from the previous Opera Tunes, along with new selections. One addition specifically asked for by previous Opera Tunes attendees is 'Va, pensiero' (aka 'The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves') from Verdi's 'Nabucco.'

Opera Tunes will include gender-bending drag and flashes of nudity, according to a promotional flyer.

"Opera has a long drag tradition of mezzo-sopranos playing young male characters in what are called 'trouser roles,'" Morgan said. "So there has always been a frisson of two women singing their love for each other even though one is essentially a drag king. We have one of the most famous trouser role arias from 'The Marriage of Figaro' where the Countess is serenaded by the youth Cherubino.

"As for the nudity, we will feature two clips from European opera productions that feature men bravely showing off their full-frontal assets. And the lesbian community would never forgive us if we omitted the lovemaking scene from the 1983 vampire film 'The Hunger' set to the famous 'Flower Duet' from Delibes' 19th-century French opera 'Lakmé.'"

Morgan and Stainback will co-host Opera Tunes along with fellow T2EA athletes Kali Jankovich and Alyssa Rick.

Morgan started training with T2EA as a non-runner, as he "thought it would be a great way to force myself to keep fit," he said. "I also chose to train with T2EA to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS. 

"As a child of the 1980s, whenever the words 'gay' or 'homosexual' were mentioned, they were immediately followed by the words 'AIDS' and 'death.' You can't imagine the fear and dread that instilled in my head growing up. Thankfully scientific advances in medications helped (turn) HIV/AIDS into a manageable disease. But I still feel the need to get to word out about HIV/AIDS to prevent new transmissions from happening and to remove the stigma of those living with HIV."

To guarantee admission to Opera Tunes, go to to RSVP in advance.

Photo: ?"Orphée & Eurydice" Caption: Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman and Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak starred alongside members of The Joffrey Ballet in Gluck's "Orphée & Eurydice" at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Choreographer and director John Neumeier's 2017 production was recently released on Blu-Ray by C Major, and a clip is featured in an encore of Opera Tunes at Sidetrack. Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Lyric Opera of Chicago?