'Opera Bob' skips the pub to sing Mozart

Opera Bob's Public House is known for its selection of craft beer and as the official bar of Manchester City fans. The bar's part-owner and founder, Robert "Bob" Pomakov, also sings opera.

Bar owner also singing in Canadian Opera Company's The Marriage of Figaro

Opera Bob has appeared in Canadian Opera Company productions like From the House of the Dead, a complex opera based on a book by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. (CBC)

Opera Bob's Public House is known for its selection of craft beer and as the official bar of Manchester City fans.

The bar's part-owner and founder, Robert "Bob" Pomakov, is known for something different altogether. He sings opera, and is starring in the Canadian Opera Company's The Marriage of Figaro, which opens on Thursday.

Pomakov will play Bartolo in the production. The same night the production will debut, his bar will serve its locally famous nachos for the late-night Raptors game.

How does 34-year-old "Opera Bob" live such a double life?
Robert Pomakov appearing in a Canadian Opera Company lunchtime show in 2013. (Tim Flynn/COC)

It started when he followed a friend to St. Michael's Choir School, and from there into the choir.

"The first week in Grade 7, my voice started to change," he told Gill Deacon, host of CBC's Here and Now.

While he could no longer sing in the boys' choir, his teachers noticed he had something different from every other 7th grader — deep and rich operatic bass vocals.

"It was the first time you feel empowered and you realize you have a gift that's different from most people," said Pomakov.

He then studied opera at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and then began entering opera competitions.

Opera Bob started his namesake bar, just east of Ossington Avenue on Dundas Street West, in January, 2009.

Then in 2013, a professional highlight of a different sort: Pomakov appeared as Monterone in Verdi's Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

"You have to be on your game when you're there," he said of the experience at the Met. "More so there than anywhere else. It's like Madison Square Garden."

Pomakov, who peppers his conversations with sports references, also plays hockey. It's part of his desire to be social.

"The difficult thing about this profession is you spend so much time on the road and so much time alone, you want to feel connected to a community," he said.

This is where the bar comes in. He and his friends simply wanted a place to go where they could all hang out. So, in his late-20s, he joined with two other friends to start Opera Bob's. 

The bar is a location to watch European and international soccer games, sometimes at strange hours due to time differences. It is the official bar of Toronto fans of Manchester City Football Club, one of the English city's Premier League soccer teams.

Pomakov does not fit the profile of a typical opera singer. Or does he?

"I think the profile is dated," he said of what an opera singer is supposed to act or look like. "We're young, we're hip."

He went on: "We're not just singers, we truly are performing artists."

The Canadian Opera Company's The Marriage of Figaro runs from Feb. 4-27 at the Four Seasons Centre.


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