The Portland Museum of Art’s 2024 Winter Bash will be remembered as “the one where the drag queen bullfighter got everyone dancing to opera.”

Midway through the Feb. 8 bash, the 350 guests were treated to a pop-up excerpt from Hogfish’s summer 2023 hit “CarmXn,” a modern reimagining of Bizet’s “Carmen.” Genre- and gender-bending dance numbers melding salsa, flamenco, mariachi, drag, bull masks and what could only be described as sexy rope tricks warmed up the audience for some opera like no one – except those who saw the show last summer – could imagine.

Opera singer Matthew Maisano, as drag queen Tori Adore, delivered an electronic version of “Habanera” that spun out into a collective dance party. Before long, the boundaries between the performers and audience had completely dissolved. Regular Mainers out for a night at the museum were grooving to opera with bull-headed dancers with ropes and a big, bald baritone in pink heels.

“I didn’t know that was going to happen, and I felt like we were suddenly part of something,” said Emily Drummond of Freeport.

“I felt like I was in Spain,” said Aurora Quaye of Cumberland.

Planning committee member Julie Lydon saw Hogfish perform at Mechanics Hall in July 2023 and wanted to bring that same dancing-during-intermission magic to a PMA Bash. “It’s experiential theater, it’s original work, and the PMA has become an incredible connector,” she said.


Guests mingled over drinks and hors d’oeuvres in both the main lobby and the lower level, where DJ and electronic music creative Xnrg (who created the electronic music for “CarmXn”) brought an urban dance club vibe.

“This is one of the PMA’s marquee events and a time to connect with the cultural community,” said Creative Director Graeme Kennedy. “It sells out every year.”

“The theme this year is kaleidoscope, glitz and glamour, with a little ’70s vibe,” said Lila Hunt Davies, who chairs the steering committee.

With a kaleidoscope, there’s always something new to see. And, in a way, that’s the message of the main floor exhibition “+ Collection” – a sampler of 50 pieces acquired by the museum in recent years.

“It’s a beautiful way for us to highlight acquisitions to the museum,” said Lane Brenner, director of major gifts. “A lot of people here tonight probably haven’t seen these artworks.”

The exhibit demonstrates the breadth of the museum’s holdings across genres – sculptures, glassworks, paintings, linocuts and even nail polish on a catalog page – and across time, from an 1850 daguerreotype to a 2020 Derrick Adams inkjet and six-color screen print on paper called “This Could All Be Yours.”

“+ Collection” is on view until April 28.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: