Have an honest talk with a drag artist about their schedule during Pride Month and they’re likely to paint their weekslong frenzy of back-to-back gigs in Dickensian terms. The best of times financially but the worst of times for one’s heels and homeostasis. 

Tacoma-based performer Anita Spritzer is no exception to this double-edged windfall. She embodies booked and busy: bouncing from Seattle Men’s Chorus rehearsals to TV studios to glitzy hotel brunches and whatnot. But perhaps most notably, Anita’s itinerary—which she describes as “super fun”—features not just some fierce lip-syncing, but also a range of activities and talents matching the variety of venues graced by her presence. That includes high-class singing in one of the gayest “non-gay” institutional spaces in Seattle.  

On Thursday, June 27, Anita will star in “Divo to Diva: Anita Spritzer in Recital” at Seattle Opera’s Tangey Jones Hall. Accompanied on the piano by her longtime friend and coach Jay Rozendaal, Spritzer will showcase the professional-grade prowess of her tenor chops, which have graced Seattle Opera’s main stage (outside of drag) in La traviata, Alcina, Carmen, and other major performances. But she’ll chin-up-shoulders-back belt a more blended repertoire than one sees during a standalone production, weaving a narrative on the queer experience through composers such as Puccini, Bernstein, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. 

To Spritzer, the drag and operatic worlds are not that different. They both balance comedy and elegance, costume and realness, to deliver important messages. Whereas drag is whimsical and exaggerated, however, Spritzer sees opera as more structured and tradition-conforming. Her repertoire uses drag to expand the boundaries of opera, juxtaposing “big show-stopping arias” with “fun musical theater” to help “tug on all the strings” in a way that proudly celebrates Pride. 

Spritzer thinks opera features an underappreciated queer history by virtue of its many gender-bending traditions. From the centuries-long presence of dan performers in Beijing opera to trouser roles in European operas, Spritzer sees drag in its simplest form as core to opera’s history. Bringing these two art forms together more explicitly, she hopes, may celebrate that drag presence explicitly, while also bringing together the genres’ somewhat disparate audiences and educating both of them on the other. 

As is the case with so many other drag-related events—from children's story hours to drag shows—local Facebook users with 'concerned citizen' energy reacted homophobically to Seattle Opera's “Divo to Diva” announcement, suggesting, to say the least, that there’s plenty of educating to do. “It’s on me to … talk about the hard things and to touch on how meaningful it is for multiple worlds to come together in a time like this,” Spritzer continued. She mentioned that reactionary legislative measures to police LGBTQ+ people through anti-drag and -trans bills make her presence in more formal spaces like Seattle Opera all the more significant.

Spritzer’s opportunity to bring drag into a more formal venue came about organically, according to Aren Der Hacopian, the director of artistic administration and planning for the Seattle Opera. After many years of working with Spritzer out of drag, Hacopian saw “a great talent on stage” when Spritzer performed in drag at Seattle Opera’s gala. Opera administrators, with Anita’s interest, framed a recital as an opportunity to collide worlds while also showcasing the “importance and beauty of recitals,” which Hacopian thinks are underappreciated as a presentational form in Seattle. Recitalgoers can hear a wider range of genres and styles than they would at a traditional performance, and do so in under 90 minutes. (For reference: Seattle Opera put on a 4-hour and 47-minute production last year, so 90 minutes is Quibi in comparison.) 

“To match the true human voice, which is especially trained for a particular style of vocal production that does not necessarily require microphones, and putting that into the world of a drag queen … is a beautiful combination,” Hacopian explained. He expects “die-hard operagoers,” the opera-curious, and drag neophytes to come together under one roof on Thursday for the recital.

Hacopian said he is “pushing” for queer performers and narratives to take the stage—including Seattle Opera’s main stage—on a more regular basis, not just during Pride Month. “It is very much time for this mixture … to be out and forward in our storytelling as well,” he said, noting that Seattle audiences care about the social and social-justice implications of the art performances they see. 

Spritzer’s recital is seemingly a step toward greater representation in one of Seattle’s most tenured cultural venues, and, possibly, a path toward a more financially viable and stable professional practice. Spritzer sees the recital as an opportunity to showcase the uniqueness of her opera-drag-nexus-straddling before taking her numbers on the road. 

Just don’t expect acrobatics and such from Spritzer. She’ll be in the crook of the piano “singing my face off ”since she “won't get back up” if she tried to do a death drop. She’ll also lean into her wacky drag persona to develop an intimate recital environment. With that in mind, she invites her viewers to dress in whatever Pride-at-the-Opera getup would make them happiest.

And, in case you’re wondering, there’s no need to bring cash for tips! I asked.