Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Friday, February 3

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Chicago Elevated Pedway Tour Kanye West and The Power of Performance Art »

Performance Sun Oct 03 2010

Hip Hopera

Francesco Milioto certainly knows opera--and he knows hip hop, too. Here, the co-founder and conductor of the New Millennium Orchestra talks about Hip Hopera, the fusion of two musical genres, the importance of musical education, and his dream to work with a certain Grammy-award winning hip hop artist.

When did you realize rap and opera could be fused--was it a particular song you heard or a hip hop artist you were already a fan of?

I'm a big fan of hip hop and I paid close attention when Beyonce did Carmen: A Hip Hopera. The rhythm in some of the music we play in a standard operatic repertoire, especially the things that we were sort of infusing the "hip hopera" in, really work very well. We've been doing this a little while with the New Millennium Orchestra. It's been a few years now that the idea has been jumping around in our heads. It's not brand new. It works.


Francesco Milioto

How would you address skeptics who feel the two genres couldn't (or shouldn't) be merged, especially since they are from two distinct and separate worlds?

What I would say to those people is that it depends on how you present it. This is purposefully meant to attract a person of a certain age. And anybody that knows me knows I have the highest level of integrity and defend classical musical all day, everyday. But I also know it's important to present this to young people in a way that they will understand and will remember.

So it's really about delivery and presentation.

Exactly. The way I do it doesn't take away from hip hop or from opera. I'm very careful that I know what I'm doing and how to explain it. These kids are going to leave with a good sense of what opera is and how fun it is, and for us, it's also about the journey of the New Millennium Orchestra. I have all kinds of talented and versatile people in the group who are not one-dimensional people. It's really a no-brainer; I can combine any style of music and it is going to work for me, so why not do it in a way that focuses on opera?

Have you heard or read anything from hip hop artists about the show?

Max Glascott, the DJ we've been working with, loves what we're doing. Also, when I sat down with Diverse, the rapper that will be featured in our final piece, he was over the moon at the idea.

Do you have a dream hip-hop artist you'd love to collaborate with?

If I could work with Eminem, I would be over the moon! It would be ridiculous! On another note, I can't even tell you how sad I am that Michael Jackson is dead, I mean, if there was ever any one person on Earth I would have loved to have my orchestra on stage with...

That would have been pretty awesome. Anybody from Chicago?

Well, we're from Chicago, so even if we got Kanye West, too... I've played for R. Kelly before--at the private "Happy People" CD release party at his house. He's a really nice guy and his feel and style of music really lends itself to orchestra as well. I'd love to work with him again. But back to Eminem--if you throw me up there with him, we will give you some hot stuff! We would tear that up!

What has the reaction about Hip Hopera been from kids?

The reaction has been pretty darn good. We were invited back immediately to the Harris Theater for this concert. I anticipate a pretty good turnout. I've got four of the best singers I know, a great band, made all the arrangements myself, and I'll be conducting from the piano and narrating the show.

It's great to get kids involved in different or new things.

Yes! And the show is completely educational. They will leave with a completely positive sense of what opera and classical music is, and what it can and should be. I mean, I don't have to play a Beethoven symphony over and over to show that classical music is cool and that it's not just for old people!

What will the audience see at Hip Hopera? What message do you want to give?

The audience will see opera in a classic and modern way. And the message is that classical music, whether it's opera, symphonic or chamber music, is not just one-dimensional. There are people who are musicians, rappers, singers, actors, and dancers, who do everything. They're allowed to do all these things in Hollywood and well, this is my Hollywood.

Hip Hopera , part of the Harris Theater Family Series, will run at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr., on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or at the box office. Contact 312.334.7777 for more information.

GB store

tamu / October 4, 2010 11:14 AM

Great concept. But of all hiphop heavyweights.....eminem is his dream collaborator? ugh

Shane / October 4, 2010 5:57 PM

lmao....Eminem could very well be the BIGGEST hip hop heavyweight...everyone wants to work with him so why are you so surprised? i guess its ok if you dont like Eminem, but you shouldn't sound so surprised....

tamu / October 5, 2010 2:03 PM

Shane yeah he's the biggest to those who know nothing about hip-hop. But hey its about being one.can see where em fits this bill

Hector / October 9, 2010 10:04 PM

As far as Eminem goes... The guy is a PHENOMENAL emcee and has paid dues in the Hip Hop culture even though he's the 'poster boy' for rap right now, but Elvis was the "King of Rock and Roll" too so what should be expected in American culture?

Now on to the show... I went to see 'Hip Hopera' or as I'd rename it 'Opera with a drummer, DJ, and a rapper who comes in periodically'. Although it was entertaining, it really didn't fuse Hip Hop and Opera together, it more so just added Hip Hop elements at the ends of the Opera songs just to keep true to the title of the presentation. An actual 'Drummer' was even wrong for a Hip Hop show (we use Drum machine samplers that the DJ should have been controlling) and the wardrobe was shirts and ties (No Hip Hop there either) the show was also not 'fun' enough to hold a kid under 10 yrs olds attention. Overall, I admire the vision of those who put the show together but it needs a serious makeover in order to actually be labeled "Hip Hopera"... Hip Hop is a subculture that consists of The DJay, The B-Boy (a.k.a. Breakdancer) the Graffiti Writer, and actually last in that lineup... The Emcee (rapper) Like I said, it was entertaining but not in my opinion what it was billed as.

GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15