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The Vagabond Opera, 6, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2; noon Aug. 3, Volksplatz, Musikfest, Bethlehem CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The Vagabond Opera, 6, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2; noon Aug. 3, Volksplatz, Musikfest, Bethlehem CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Vagabond Opera at Musikfest

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 by REBEKAH HAWK Special to The Press in Focus

The Vagabond Opera returns to the Lehigh Valley region with performances at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 and noon Aug. 3 on the Volksplatz stage at Musikfest, Bethlehem.

The Vagabond Opera is at the center of the neo-cabaret phenomenon. The Washington Post described the group as "a band of ceaseless charisma, boundless energy, impeccable musicianship and more than a little touch of both the naughty and exotic."

The group, which dubs itself "Bohemian Operatic Steampunk Cabaret," delivers passionate offerings of Bohemian cabaret, Paris hot jazz, gut-bucket swing, tangos, Ukrainian folk-punk ballads, klezmer and vigorous originals.

Vagabond Opera has performed at Mauch Chunk Opera House, Jim Thorpe.

The Portland, Or.,-based performers produce no ordinary opera with the ability to sing in 14 different languages complete with theatrical performances, including Ashley Lopez as lead singer and belly dancer.

Lopez has performed with a variety of dance groups, including Opera San José, the Mona Khan Bollywood Dance Company and SF Hula.

In addition to Lopez, the touring band includes Eric Stern; accordion and vocals; Mark Burdon; drums; Drew Nelson; bass, Paul Evans; saxophone, clarinet; and Skip Von Kuske; cello.

The group released its fourth full-length album, "Sing For Your Lives," in October 2011. Other CDs include "The Zeitgeist Beckons" (2009), "Vagabond Opera" (2006) and "Get On The Train" (2003).

Vagabond Opera was created in 2002 by Stern, a European-trained opera singer and composer.

Says, Stern, "We can almost be described as a traveling carnival in the 1960s."

"Portland is a hub for interesting music and is eclectic for a lot of reasons," he says. "We focus on quality rather than quantity."