Opera on Tap Maine’s live performance, Home Is Where the Heart Is will be hosted by Thomas Memorial Library. Viewers can search the library’s name on Facebook for the virtual show at 7 p.m. on July 30. Courtesy photo of Thomas Memorial Library

CAPE ELIZABETH — Thomas Memorial Library is trying something a bit different with a virtual performance, “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” featuring Opera on Tap Maine. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 30.

Opera on Tap Maine is a nonprofit organization that is part of a larger group, serving as a network of local singers and bringing opera into a more accessible atmosphere, like a local bar or a public library, Lauren Yokabaskas, one of the event’s hosts and member of the organization, said. The group is part of a larger organization that started in New York.

“The whole mission is to break up stereotypes of what we think of opera — as sort of stuffy,” Yokabaskas said.

Andy Ryer, programming librarian, said that Thomas Memorial Library has done a couple of successful virtual performances this summer, and this upcoming event is a chance for people curious about opera, or people looking to see something new, to see eight native Maine performers show off the musical genre.

“Home is Where the Heart Is” will feature different show tunes, jazz ensembles, opera pieces, and Disney songs, Yokabaskas said.

Although the event will go live on Facebook @thomasmemoriallibrary, Ryer said that people interested do not need a Facebook account to access the performance. The show will be open to everyone — not just library members or Cape Elizabeth residents either.

These type of virtual events also help bring people together during a time where the public cannot visit the physical library building, Ryer said.

“It’s been good at building community,” he said. “The library has sort of been a rally point, a focal point for the community. There’s all sorts of online options for doing things. We’ve been trying to do stuff that’s unique here, performances that aren’t offered here.”

Ryer said that Yokabaskas approached the library with the idea, and Ryer loved the idea of having something different.

“I’m sure there is opera in Maine, and it seems like a high brow art form, one that I’m not familiar with, so when Lauren approached it seemed like a good opportunity to learn about it,” he said. “They want to take opera out of that mindset and perform in non-traditional spaces so that was appealing to me. I think people have connotations about it being inaccessible, and it’s different from most music people see. I hope Lauren and Opera on Tap can be ambassadors to the art form.”

Yokabaskas and her co-host Sable Strout are both Mainers.

Yokabaskas, a Cape Elizabeth resident, said they both were singing opera professionally in different parts of the country before the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. and the singers’ contracts started to fall through.

That’s how Yokabaskas said she got involved in Opera on Tap Maine, where she quickly earned a leadership role.

“Lauren and I decided, what better opportunity to share music than this event,” Strout said. “We got in touch with other singers who are still out in other states singing. We wanted to involve Maine singers.”

Among the group will be performers who are quarantined in states like Connecticut, Texas, California, Yokabaskas said.

The performance is in partnership with Bluet Wine, a local company, Yokabaskas said.

“They get all of their blueberries in Maine,” she said. “We chatted with the owner and he was super excited about bringing Maine singers a spotlight and Maine companies and businesses. On our Zoom call we’ll be toasting with blueberry wine. It’ll be giving (the singers) a taste of home.”

For people who don’t know much about Maine’s opera scene, it can be surprising to discover that many of the singers are young and keep up with modern trends, Strout said.

“I think the biggest thing people are surprised by is that we’re all normal Millennials,” she said. “People will see me at a bar and ask what I do and will be blown away. There are so many of us watching Netflix by night and playing opera by day.”

The two singers got involved in opera in college, when they had both planned to go into teaching and ended up finding a passion for opera, they said.

“I think it’s sort of a slippery slope when you’re in high school and you start doing musicals,” Strout said. “I went to UMaine thinking I would be a music teacher, and I sang an audition for the choir and a teacher there heard it and was like, ‘You’d be a really good opera singer.’ They sort of ushered me in that direction.”

Yokabaskas said, “I grew up singing in the local girls choir and I originally went to school thinking I wanted to be a choral director, and a teacher at an audition asked if I’d seriously considered opera.”

Through the virtual event, Opera on Tap Maine hopes to provide a fun and approachable avenue for Mainers to experience opera, the singers said.

“There is opera in Maine and I saw more as I left the state,” Yokabaskas said. “We’re excited to bring all we’ve seen to the public.”

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