Michigan Opera Theatre Summer Serenade

A cultural highlight for the summer was the Michigan Opera Theatre Summer Serenade July 28th at Grand Circus Park in Downtown Detroit.  

Although the day was hot and humid, the evening breeze and sun sliding behind the tall buildings made for a wonderfully comfortable evening. 

I haven't been to Grand Circus Park for an event yet, so I was not sure what to expect. The park is located away from the river and near Comerica Park, located right across from the Michigan Opera Theatre.  The park, a mere few acres,  an island in the middle of an intersection,  was created in the mid 1800's and has been a gathering place for workers and residents since then. It was taken to the next level as a premiere gathering spot as part of Quicken Loans' Dan Gilbert's vision for revitalization. 

Fortunately, there was no Tiger game that evening, so traffic and parking were simple. Not quite sure the best way to park or if we would need our lawn chairs, we looped once around the park before finding great parking directly across an entrance for only $6.  

We passed the lone food truck for the evening which specialized in BBQ. We had already eaten, but definitely appreciated the bottled water for only $1.00 per bottle. A deal for sure!

The stage was set at the western edge of the park and metal bistro tables and chairs were set up for an excellent view. The warm-up act, the Violin Divas were in mid-set so we quickly found seats as the violin ensemble enthusiastically played a lovely piece. They bill themselves as recreational, but they were quite competent and I look forward to seeing them play in their own right. Check them out on youtube! 

I walked around a bit between acts and was delighted to see such a great crowd-young, old, multi-cultural, enjoying this perfect summer evening. A father and toddler aged son were playing with the bean bag toss, workers coming right from the office, or perhaps dinner downtown, were loosening their ties and enjoying the breeze. The park also features an outdoor ping pong table and other activities to enjoy during the evening. There were also highly visible security guards who chatted easily with the crowds but I am sure provided many folks with peace of mind. 

In a matter of moments a journalist provided introductory comments and then the strains of Brindisi from La Traviata,   sung by the five member troupe erupted from the stage. The vocals were at the forefront the entire evening, accompanied simply by digital piano. The performers dressed in evening casual, seemed relaxed, befitting the park like setting. There were so many highlights from the evening, but a true stand out for me was of course Summertime, the vocals gliding through the upper register, effortlessly, the melancholy melody befitting this late summer evening, a wearied respite in a city that is perpetually renewing itself. 


I would definitely go back for another event. If your family enjoys cultural experiences in an urban setting, then you would likely not be disappointed by this inexpensive evening. It could be a great introduction to a genre of music that they might not otherwise listen to, in a comfortable urban park setting, providing the opportunity for those with young children to play outdoor games and dance while listening to some of Michigan's most talented musicians. 

Michigan Cool Things July 2016

It is hot today.

Okay, I know that is the understatement of the week, but still...

As you know, we love getting outside as much as we can and enjoy exploring nature by taking a walk through a metro park or a stroll through one of Michigan's great small towns, but this week has been a challenge, partially because I am not really a beach or pool person. (We are sort of like the Baudelaire's from A Series of Unfortunate Events and prefer overcast or rainy days at the beach....)

If you are in our state over the next week or so, here are a few cool things to do (in no particular order).

1. Go to the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo.  It is worth checking out, especially if you have a zoo membership or a discount. The exhibit features wide glass windows for viewing, an immersive large screen experience of being on Shackleton's Antarctic expedition. Children with sensory sensitivities might not enjoy this aspect of the exhibit, but it is easily avoidable, or you can pass quickly through it.  It is wonderfully cool inside!

2. Grab some ice cream, custard or frozen yogurt. There are so many wonderful ones around, I don't want to leave anyone out, but a new favorite is Orange Leaf. Their pricing is based on size only, not weight. This helps the pocket book when one of the kids goes a little wild with the cookie dough!

3. Check out  an evening concert in the park. It seems like most nights of the week a city near where you are visiting will host a concert in the park. The temperatures will be a bit cooler in the evening, and the kids will love dancing or reading a book while you enjoy some high quality entertainment.  The Marquette City Band is playing July 28th at the Presque Isle Band Shell.

4. Go see The Tempest at the Redford Theatre. This special performance is by the Motor City Youth Theater Bard Bums and included a free craft for the first 100 kids.  

5. Catch an opera. Okay, not technically, an opera, but the  Michigan Opera Theatre is having a summer serenade. Musicians will be performing not just your favorite arias, but classics from cinema and Broadway as well. This might be a great way to expose your children to wonderful music that they might not hear everyday in a relaxed, outdoor setting. 

6. Stay up late stargazing at one the Dark Sky Parks in Michigan. These areas feature minimal interference from city lights to allow for great viewing of the night sky. Alpena has three Dark Sky Parks and the Headlands Dark Sky Park is near Mackinaw City. 

7. Okay, okay. If you insist, go swimming or hang out at the beach-it's summer after all, it is supposed to be hot- preferably under an umbrella and not during the peak hours!  At the very least, go find some water, an inland lake or one of the Great Lakes and catch the sunrise or sunset. You'll never forget it.