"The East Village Opera Company"


Roll over, Mozart, and tell Verdi the news: The East Village Opera Company is in the business of bravura rock makeovers.

No tame popera act, the 11-piece ensemble specializes in rocking the classics on their self-titled CD, sometimes reconfiguring arias with Queen-like pomp 'n' roll. The group's Canadian co-founders -- multi-instrumentalist/arranger Peter Kiesewalter and vocalist Tyley Ross -- bring both affection and irreverence to the task, so even when they sound like art-rockers with too much time on their hands, it's easy to appreciate their imagination and chutzpah.

And their talent. Ross, who starred in the Canadian production of "Tommy" and appeared on Broadway in "Miss Saigon," has sufficient vocal power and range to pull off this brashly ambitious project. Another big plus is fellow singer (and recent recruit) AnnMarie Milazzo, who has several shining moments on the group's major label debut album, including her slowly escalating dramatic turn on Alfredo Catalani's "Ebben? Ne andro lontana."

The group rounds up some of the usual suspects here -- Mozart (Overture from "Le Nozze di Figaro"), Puccini ("Nessun dorma"), Verdi ("La donna e mobile") and Bizet ("Habanera") -- then reconfigures their music for string and rock rhythm sections. Kiesewalter certainly isn't shy when it comes to taking harmonic and rhythmic liberties, and he carves out plenty of room for guitarist Ben Butler to introduce his own six-string arias or add a blues-rock flourish. The results may well appeal more to progressive rock fans than to opera devotees, but chances are the company will delight a mix of both.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Tuesday at the Birchmere.