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Very Vaudevillian Vagabonds

Photo by Ben Z. Mund

Corsets and top hats, handlebar moustaches and suspenders, petticoats and purple hair: enter the world of Portland’s neo-vaudevillian Vagabond Opera. A popular attraction on Northwest stages, Vagabond Opera mixes gypsy-jazz, Eastern European folk music, opera and Weimar cabaret into legendary, quirky and energetic live shows. You’ll hear accordions, Arabic flavors, Yiddish tunes and memorable themes from classical music, mixed together in a big steampunk spectacle.

Vagabond Opera, formed in 2002 by classically trained operatic tenor Eric Stern, aims to liberate opera from black-tie aristocracy and haughty concert halls — reintroducing rock ‘n’ roll populism and absurdist showmanship to the form, while riding the wave of interest in all things 1890 that has taken over Portland and the Whit.

This June, the six-piece group is hitting the road on The Pocket Watch Tour, featuring tons of guest appearances, including Vagabond Opera’s very own dance troupe, The Sepiatonic Dancers. “This is our first show that tells a story,” says vagabondopera.com. “We’ve even got a director.” The Sepiatonic Dancers do for dance what Vagabond Opera tries to do for music: taking a traditional form like belly dance, throwing out the rule book and hoping for the best. So dust off your monocle, put on a bow tie, fedora and three-piece suit; if you think Vaudevillian variety acts are so last century, you’ve never seen Vagabond Opera.

Vagabond Opera plays with Mood Area 52 8 pm Friday, June 14, at WOW Hall; $12 adv., $15 door.