Describing a Vagabond Opera show in a word or two is virtually impossible.

There's the trumpet-playing belly dancer. She's joined by the mustache-touting accordion player bellowing opera from a Victorian hot air balloon. Then there's the music.

Based in Portland, Ore., Vagabond Opera plays everything from Parisian hot jazz to "gypsy pop" to traditional opera. They do it with four singers (two operatically trained) two cellos, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, double bass and drums.

Add in stunning costumes, fantastic props and sometimes bawdy, almost-always improvisational humor, and you have one crazy, but entertaining, show. At least that's been the winning formula for the past decade, said band member Robin Jackson.

The band performs Feb. 7 at The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewery Company in Harrisburg.

"I love music and I love musical theater," said Jackson, who plays the violin, saxophone, clarinet, marimba, mbira, digeredoo and drums. "I really enjoy bringing people into a world where they can really freak out about their laundry list and their taxes."

Jackson met band frontman Eric Stern about a decade ago on Halloween.

"When we met, our interests kind of combined," Jackson said. "We kind of had this shared vision of creating this old world ... gypsy music."

In the years since, the band added players - it's officially a six-piece band - and picked up influences and experimentation along the way.


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Music is played in up to 14 different languages and nobody really knows what will happen from night to night, Jackson said.

"There'll be opera, there'll be cabaret, there'll be klezmer music," he said of the Harrisburg show. "It's sort of like Tom Waits meets Edith Piaf in a dive bar. It's definitely different, but it's very entertaining."

In October 2011, the band released, "Sing For Your Lives," the fourth full-length release from the band. The ensemble premiered their first full length opera, "Queen of Knives," in May 2010.

Vagabond Opera has performed across the United States, in Europe from Poland to Portugal, and they are played regularly on NPR.

- JOHN HILTON,
FlipSide staff

If you go

WHAT: Vagabond Opera

WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 7

WHERE: The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewery Company, 50 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg

COST: $7 to $10

DETAILS: Visit www.vagabondopera.com