Underground classical music

Spurred on by a growing number of offbeat performance venues and enterprising young classical musicians, New York is experiencing a boom in small, largely below-the-radar concert series.  There are opera nights at a Lower East Side dive bar, chamber music concerts at a boxing gym beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, contemporary music at a cabaret in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and avant-garde fare in a silo on the banks of an industrial canal.

The rise of an alternative classical scene recalls the 1960s and 70s, when downtown lofts and art galleries helped give rise to minimalism and performance art.  The current crop of classical series resembles a similar trend happening in jazz and world-music circles, as the club epicenter has spread from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  Classical musicians often say they are drawn to simpler, less pretentious encounters with audiences.

“It’s just like going to see a band,” says Anne Ricci, a soprano in describing Opera on Tap, an opera recital series that she co-founded in June 2005 at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom, a former bowling alley and cop bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that now presents live music.

“Audiences are allowed to be loud, they’re allowed to talk, get up and re-fill their beers.  It helps the singers recover a sense of spontaneity that can easily be lost in the classical repertoire.”

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