The term rock opera usually conjures up images of earnest classic rock pieces like The Who’s Tommy or Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
But the performers in Baltimore Rock Opera Society—with amusing acronym BROS—take a different approach when they put on their genre-defying productions.
“We try to take the excess of hair metal and arena rock and jam it down the throat of opera,” says Aran Keating, BROS artistic director. “We want world-turning events happening in these shows. And there is literally no limit to what we can do on stage.”
The concept of BROS was born at Goucher College when a group of five students realized they had a very unique goal in common: to produce fantasy rock operas.
“It was a slow process that involved a lot of drinking at first,” says Jared Margulies, outreach and development director. “But we received a grant from the mayor’s office for $500, which seemed like a ton of money at the time. That was sort of this great moment like, ‘Oh, we’re actually doing this.’”
In 2009, BROS staged its first rock opera, Gründlehämmer, about medieval, farming musicians overcoming tyranny set in a mythical kingdom called Brotopia.
All told, BROS has produced five shows since its inception, writing and creating everything from scratch, including the script, score, costumes, and sets.
“Production is generally a nine-month process, which is appropriate because we really feel like we’ve birthed something,” Keating says. “We’re usually writing songs and the script at the same time the band is learning songs and we’re building sets, all while we’re casting and promoting the show. It’s a huge creative challenge.”
But it’s a challenge they feel is worth it once everything comes together on stage. The latest production, Valhella, sold out all seven of its shows at the Autograph Playhouse in Charles Village.
“There’s something about being a part of this massive terrifying behemoth,” Margulies says. “You just have to try and hold on.”
This month, BROS is bringing its grandiose spectacles to Artscape, where they’ll perform a live variety show on the Charles Street Bridge.
As for the future, Margulies is writing the next production about a 1890s serial killer set to black metal. The BROS team is also looking to become a touring company.
“Culturally, there is a major groundswell around ridiculous epicness—look at Rock of Ages or Guitar Hero,” Keating says. “We want people to rock out and lose their minds.”