Farmer’s Market Surprise: Opera With Your Tomatoes

By: David Boraks,

Shoppers at the Davidson Farmer’s Market got a bonus with their local berries, meats and veggies Saturday morning: a menu of arias and duets by singers from Opera Carolina. The surprise performance was one of a series of “Random Acts of Culture” organized by the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte.

Baritone John Fulton sings for farmer's market shoppers Saturday. More photos below. (David Boraks/ after 9 a.m., as folks filled shopping bags and pushed strollers, baritone John Fulton stepped out in front of a table of red tomatoes and began singing “The Toreador Song” from Bizet’s “Carmen.” He stopped shoppers in their tracks – at one pointing climbing onto a wall and, at another, grabbing a bright yellow summer squash and singing to it.

It was a busy day at the market and the shoppers and farmers seemed mostly pleased with the unexpected encounter.

“I always wanted to be around for one of these,” one smiling shopper told soprano Gina Gutierrez of Matthews, after she sang “Mio babbino caro (My dear Papa)” from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi.”

Beekeeper Johnny Elliott listened to the music from behind his table of honey. “I tell you, that opera’s a little pizzazz-y. I like that. It’s great,” he said. “That’s pretty neat. Where else could you find that, but Davidson.”

The unorthodox venue was a treat for performers, too. Saturday’s “random act” was the third in the series for soprano Mary Kathryn Withers of Davidson.

“I call this ‘attack opera’ – bringing culture and enlightenment to people whether they want it or not,” she said after singing “Quando men vo (When I walk)” from Puccini’s La Boheme. “People may think opera is something they can’t relate to, or that they can’t enjoy or appreciate. … I love it. I love the reactions on people’s faces, especially getting to do something here with so many neighbors and friends.”

Ms. Withers also later joined tenor John Kaneklides in the “Drinking Song” from Verdi’s “La Traviata.” And Mr Kaneklides sang “Una furtiva lagrama (A furtive tear)” from “L’elisir d’amore (Elixir of love)” by Donizetti.

The Arts & Science Council received a $30,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for the Random Acts of Culture series. They’ve also brought performances to other farmer’s markets in the region as well as shopping malls and corporate office towers.

“These performances are part of taking classical performances out of their normal venue and getting them into the street where people are,” said Ben Kubie, a community program director of of the ASC.

“Normally the reaction goes from surprise to delight, and the opera is great for that, because it’s very interactive,” Mr. Kubie said.


See videos of previous Random Acts of Culture from the ASC on YouTube.

Aug. 18, 2010,, ‘Random Act of Operatic Culture’


Listen to an audio postcard from, recorded Saturday at the market. You’ll hear the voices of soprano Gina Gutierrez, Ben Kubie of the Arts & Science Council, farmers market beekeeper John Elliott and soprano Mary Kathryn Withers of Davidson.

Listen here.

View a slideshow from the event here. (Scroll to bottom of page)


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Filed under At the Market, Quirky

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