Rocktopia Live fuses classical music and arena rock

Twenty years ago, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra fused classical and rock music to create a new concert phenomenon. Today, the acclaimed composer Randall Craig Fleischer and TSO lead vocalist, Rob Evan, have collaborated to create Rocktopia Live, which stops at the Aronoff Center this weekend.

“Rob felt like it would pass the baton,” said Tony Vincent, one of five lead vocalists on the Rocktopia Live tour. “The idea is to break down barriers and any preconceived notion of what either genre is about.”

In addition to the five vocalists (two men and three women), Rocktopia Live consists of a 60+-piece orchestra, a 40+-person choir, and a four-piece rock band, which performs songs by Queen, Mozart, Journey, Rachmaninoff, Pink Floyd, Tchaikovsky, and many others. However, the rock and classical songs are not exclusive of each other. A typical “Rocktopia” track is “Also Sprach Zarathustra/Baba O’Riley,” by “Richard Strauss/The Who.”

“We take these iconic songs and perform them in an unconventional way,” Vincent said. “We put them in a larger format and make them ten times larger, partially by pulling the classical pieces into them. Classical music is often considered old-school and highbrow, so this introduces classical music to someone who may have never been to a symphony. But all the (rock) songs are still completely recognizable; they’re just a lot more epic.”

Vincent said the interplay strategy between the rock and classical pieces also applies to the vocals.

“Some songs are solo numbers,” he said. “But sometimes when you’re combining an Italian aria with a Led Zeppelin song, the vocals are passed back and forth.”

Vincent said the genesis for Rocktopia Live was when Evan performed it as a one-man show in Philadelphia.

“He booked it for two weeks, but it sold so well that they extended the run to eight weeks,” Vincent said.

Vincent’s own versatile pedigree was a reason why he was hired. He released three rock albums in the 1990s, then made a lateral move to Broadway, where he played significant roles in “Rent,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

“Rob was looking for a rock vocalist, and he saw me in ‘Idiot,’ ” Vincent said. “I’ve been involved for a little over five years now. It took (Bob and Randall) a long time to get the music right.”

When PBS broadcast a live performance of Rocktopia Live from Budapest last June, the stage was set for a U.S. tour.

“The response was overwhelming,” Vincent said. “It was clear that audiences here wanted to see it live.”

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How to go

What: Rocktopia Live

Where: Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 1

Cost: $48.50-$102.50

More Info: 513-621-2787 or

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