Bar Carolle is a site specific, permanent installation created during a year-long residency at the Hudson Opera House in the city of Hudson, NY. The project consists of a fully operational concession bar cart designed to serve attendees of the opera house during events. The bar was built out of an upright piano uncovered during the renovations that the H.O.H underwent in 2016-17.
The project is inspired by Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), an 'opéra fantastique' by French composer Jacques Offenbach and is named after a pun on the opera's most iconic aria: The Barcarolle, a type of folk song traditionally sung by Venetian gondoliers. Les Contes d'Hoffmann is notorious for its numerous tavern scenes and its references to all sorts of libations and intoxicating potions.
One side of the piano serves as the bar area and storage while the other side consists of shadow boxes featuring puppets representing the characters from Offenbach's opera. The puppets are operable through cranks and motors, thus enabling attendees to interact with the bar cart while waiting to be served.
Beyond a play on words, the synergy between French and American cultures is at the core of this project. Jacques Offenbach opened his own opera house 'Les Bouffes Parisiens' in Paris in 1855, the same year that the Hudson Opera House was completed. Following the erection of the Paris Opera Garnier, American towns started renaming their City Halls 'operas', thus establishing a 19th century trend throughout the United States.
Also notably, it is in the city of Hudson New York that Harry Croswell gave the first official definition of a cocktail, which appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository of May 13th 1806.