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About Vagabond Opera

Vagabond Opera brings a musical goulash of styles wherever they pitch their tents for the night. Specializing in Bohemian eclecticism, the troupe borrows... Read More...

- Eugene Weekly

European Cabaret! Vintage Americana! Balkan Belly Dance! Neo-Classical Opera! Old World Yiddish Theater! Welcome to the six-piece, Portland, Oregon-based Vagabond Opera.

Bohemian Cabaret ensemble Vagabond Opera is described by the Washington Post as “A band of ceaseless charisma, boundless energy, impeccable musicianship and more than a little touch of both the naughty and exotic.” The group delivers passionate offerings of Bohemian cabaret for young and old. Paris hot jazz, gut bucket swing, tangos, Ukrainian folk-punk ballads, klezmer and vigorous originals meet a world of riverboat gambling queens, Turkish belly dancers, and the enigmatic Marlene Dietrich. Weaving elements of Kurt Weil, Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf with absurdist flair, theatrics and an old world mood, Vagabond Opera presents the new wave of opera–lusty voices singing in 13 languages and presenting a cabaret of rich musical phrasing, sparkling lyrics and indomitable stage presence, all played with exuberance, skill and a gritty Vagabond edge. This is Opera liberated and reinvented for everyone!

The band’s core lineup features vocalists, (including operatic tenor vocals), accordion, tenor saxophone, clarinet, cello, stand-up bass, and drums. Guest performers and dancers often appear with the ensemble.

Vagabond Opera is at the vanguard of a growing popularity in the Neo-cabaret phenomenon, and through their theatrical performances, lyrics in many languages, and an eclectic repertoire, they liberate opera from its usual construct, expanding musical and theatrical biodiversity. Vagabond Opera has performed all over the USA and in Europe. They have been featured on NPR, in the Washington Post and Jazziz Magazine, and have shared stages and players with such acclaimed acts as Pink Martini, Devotchka, The Decembrists, Balkan Beat Box, The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and the Oregon Symphony. Vagabond opera has four full-length albums

Vagabond Opera was created in 2002 by European-trained opera singer and composer Eric Stern. While still electrified by traditional opera, Stern created a new context for opera: Performance on a more intimate scale incorporating not only opera but elements of Weimar Cabaret, Arabic and Balkan forms, and the original music that springs from the ensemble’s fertile creative work. This is not your granny’s opera, but a visceral artistic ensemble that features powerful instrumental and vocal performances coupled with a highly eclectic and theatrical experience.

The Players…


Eric Stern

The Northwest’s own premiere operatic tenor, accordionist, pianist, composer and consummate showman, he is an unparalleled devo with incendiary stage presence and… Read More…


Drew Nelson

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon Drew Nelson’s musical journey began at 2 years old at a drum kit set up in his parents living room. Soon after his love for the bass grew with a Fender Mustang…Read More


Mark Burdon

Drummer & composer Mark Burdon’s fluid, textural style is an amalgam of diverse influences including over a decade of work as part of the jazz scene on the East Coast and… Read More…


Robin Jackson

When Robin was less than a year old, his dad used to bounce him on his knee and say “Feel the beat?, Feel the beat?!” This early programming led him to become the dedicated, creative and professional musician he is today…. Read More…


Skip vonKuske

Skip vonKuske’s least favorite statement is, “You must be classically trained”, though he was indeed. During the first 10 years of playing the cello he was… Read More…


GUEST ARTISTS:

Vagabond Opera consists of a core ensemble but the troupe often features guest artists (it’s kind of like the Love Boat!). Here are some:

Karolina Lux

Karolina is an innovator, performer, and choreographer trained in, and constantly pushing the limits of: tribal fusion style belly dance, Belly-esque (her tasteful, original creations of burlesque plus belly dance), and various vaudeville theater styles of dance. Read More


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Ursula Knudson

Ursula Knudson: Vocals, Violin, Saw, Banjolele and Percussion. After singing opera on the streets and in the town squares in Italy for two years, Ursula decided to try move to the States… Self-taught on the saw, she won 2nd place in the 2004 International Saw Festival. Ursula sings beautifully in Romanian, Romanes, Rom, (yes, three different languages!) French,Italian, Serbian, Japanese, and sometimes even in English, her native tongue. She also plays with her other group, the Fishtank Ensemble, and lives in Los Angeles.

ANNIE ROSEN: To catch the breath of an audience and to marvel at the wide-eyed wonder that comes when one is lost in another world: This is the reward Annie enjoys for the years of busking, storytelling, clowning, and physical theater training she has been lucky enough to receive in her thirty-three years. Annie’s creative passion in this material is enhanced by training at the Dell Arte International School of Physical Theater, a BA in Storytelling and World Narrative from Pitzer College, years of street performance across the Northwest, ongoing training as a Yogi and Yoga Instructor and the luck of a very musical, talented, and encouraging family, teachers, and mentors.


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Ashia Grzesik

Harnessing her rousing vocals and whimsical, gutsy cello lines, Ashia Grzesik creates songs with elements of cabaret, folk, blues, and pop/punk. Read more…

Susan Lucia

Susan Lucia often plays with Vagabond when founding member Mark is in Brazil. Susan has electricfied Vagabond audiences from coast to coast and was part of Vagabond’s 2013 Pocket Watch Tour. Whenever she plays and with whomever Susan is always the Backbone of the Band. Find more of her work here
Susan Lucia