From Opera to Opry



PENSACOLA, FL – Pensacola Opera presents Songs Down South on Thursday, November 9th at the Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio as a part of the 10th Anniversary of the Foo Foo Festival. This event is a one-night-only southern food and music festival where grand opera collides with grand ole opry style. 

“We are so grateful to have received a Foo Foo Festival Grant which will allow us to produce a unique and innovative event that will attract new, diverse audiences. If the Foo Foo Festival wants to deliver its cultural tourists a unique artistic and culinary experience, Songs Down South will certainly do that!”

Chandra McKern, General Director

The culinary experience starts outside where festival-goers will enjoy southern food staples, spirited cocktails, and live entertainment. Patrons are welcomed down south right away by the familiar sounds of Pensacola’s house bluegrass band, The String Farm Band. This group can be seen at the Palafox Market every Saturday morning and will serenade with familiar bluegrass and country tunes while the food and bar stations are open. 

Southern-crafted cocktails, wine, and beer will be curated by Birmingham, Alabama’s Scott Jones. He has previously worked in New York City with Food & Wine Magazine and is the former Executive Editor of Southern Living Magazine. Scott currently owns  “Jones is Thirsty”, a wine education and private tasting company. The evening’s menu of southern comfort food is brought to you by William “Bill E.” Stitt, owner of Bill-E’s Restaurant in Fairhope, AL. Along with his restaurant, Bill also cures award-winning small batch bacon that can be found around Pensacola at local restaurants Jackson’s Steakhouse and Restaurant Iron. Bill is providing a full meal of his best-selling pulled pork, confit pork belly bites, signature sauce, and all the fixins you’d expect. Second (and third) helpings are encouraged—all food and drinks prior to the concert are unlimited. 

The main event takes place inside the Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio as the space heads down south and comes alive with a one-night-only concert featuring three genre-bending headliners and one dynamic emcee. 

“The great thing about opera singers is that they usually have a variety of talents,” says Artistic Director Corey McKern. He continues, “For Songs Down South, I wanted to bring in internationally trained opera singers to perform music that they know and love outside of the traditional operatic canon. You will hear opera singers perform like they would after a show late at night amongst their friends. This is truly going to be a one-of-a-kind event.”

Opening the concert is the Opera Cowgirls, performing opera, country, and bluegrass in a way that has never been heard in Pensacola. By blending the greatest operatic hits with some country flavor, the Cowgirls have proven that they can truly cover Puccini to Parton. Bringing the heart of the program is Janinah Burnett, with an intimate piano-only set. Burnett is fresh off of Broadway as part of Phantom of the Opera’s closing cast; she previously spent eight seasons as a Metropolitan Opera principal artist. Bringing us home for the evening is The Midnight Cricket Club, founded by married opera singers Michael Mayes and Megan Marino. Both enjoy thriving opera careers–Mayes has performed on the Pensacola Opera stage in La bohème, The Barber of Seville, and Dead Man Walking. During the pandemic, his upbringing in Cut and Shoot, Texas inspired the group to get back to their roots of playing folk, country, and bluegrass. Rounding out the evening’s lineup, the Pensacola Opera Jan Miller Studio Artists will also be taking the stage to perform a few numbers. 

Adding a vibrant southern splash is the emcee for the evening, Loosey LaDuca. Loosey is a nationally renowned drag performer, most recently having been featured on season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While on the show, she garnered fame for her impressions of Dolly Parton and Joan Rivers. She will be hosting Songs Down South as Dolly Parton herself and providing her own musical and comedic elements throughout the evening. 

The Foo Foo Festival provides a great platform for arts organizations to expand on their traditional programming in hopes of reaching new audiences. The Pensacola Opera staff view Songs Down South as a way to showcase not only opera, but a variety of music together in a mixture and multitude of ways. Music Director Cody Martin says, “The American South has a complicated history, resulting in a broad range of musical influences, styles, and subjects to be explored. We’re excited to be able to juxtapose bluegrass next to country next to spirituals—finding the joy and common ground that makes a place like Pensacola such a great place to call home.” 

Songs Down South will be held at the Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio on the Pensacola State College campus on Thursday, November 9, 2023. The food and drink portion of the evening will begin at 5 PM, with the concert beginning at 7:30 PM. All-inclusive Festival Tickets are $125 and include unlimited food and drinks and a general admission seat to the concert. The Concert Ticket for those only wanting to attend the concert is $75. 

Tickets are available online at pensacolaopera.com or by calling the Opera Center at 850.433.6737, M – F from 9 AM – 5 PM. 

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