Fresco Opera Theatre combats the genre’s traditional reputation

Pair makes opera accessible

Back in 2009 while taking in the Willy Street Fair Parade, Melanie and Frank Cain shared a realization: “This is what opera needs – this crazy energy where everyone feels accepted and all are invited to be inspired by what they see,” recalls Melanie.

The pair founded Fresco Opera Theatre to make opera accessible and appealing for a broader array of audiences – all without sacrificing artistic quality.

The Cains have found a niche in mixing high culture with pop culture. Original productions include “Paranormal Playhouse,” which set arias to a plotline inspired by ghost-hunting shows; “The Real Divas of Dane County,” in which fictional reality-TV stars sang works by Mozart, Bizet, Puccini and Wagner; and “Rinaldo and the Galactic Crusades,” touted as the intersection of Handel and “Star Wars.” Fresco Opera Theatre combats the genre’s traditional reputation

Fresco shows have graced the stages of Overture Center for the Arts, the Madison Masonic Center and Olbrich Botanical Gardens, as well as private garages across the city.

“You don’t get much more accessible than in your neighbor’s driveway,” Melanie says. These shows, which debuted in 2015, have been extra family-friendly, but with Fresco’s signature mashup twist: “The Ugly Duckling” staged like a John Hughes ’80s flick, or a Kardashians-inspired “Cinderella.”

Melanie, who earned master’s and doctoral degrees in music from UW-Madison, is equally at home behind the scenes as she is lighting up the stage as a soprano for Fresco. “I work best when I have a headset on calling the show until right before I have to walk on to sing,” she says.