In keeping with the theme of Tuesday’s (Le) Poisson Rouge concert entitled “Do Something Different”, I will diverge from the ordinary by opening with the evening’s closing remark: “This is opera in New York City today!”

Opera Singers Initiative founder Anna Lee excitedly delivered this terse eight-word proclamation on the venue’s dimly-lit stage, where she was joined by vocalists from Opera Singers Initiative and Opera Cowgirls, who performed a diverse program featuring the music of such composers and songwriters as Fauré, Hahn, Poulenc, LaChiusa, Mozart, Sondheim, Radiohead, and Leonard Cohen.

To set the mood for the 19th-century “Salon des Refusés”-inspired program, a slideshow of artwork by Yucatán-based artist Rafael María provided each performance with a unique backdrop of striking colors and textures. And much like artists of the “Salon des Refusés”, the sense of diversity, vibrancy and entrepreneurship evident throughout the evening’s music affirmed that opera performers in present-day New York City are also itching to stray from the usual. Indeed, while the program consisted primarily of songs as opposed to staged operatic works, it provided an interesting look into how some of today’s classically trained opera singers are crossing genres and mixing styles in an effort to broaden their outreach and appeal to the varied tastes of audiences.

Accompanied by pianist Eric Sedgwick, soprano Margaret Meyer was first to take the stage with Gabriel Fauré’s Au bord de l’eau and Ici-bas! Together, Meyer and Sedgwick captured the tender swells, distant echoes and harmonic complexities shared between the piano and vocal lines of Au bord de l’eau. It was an emotive performance, in which beautifully phrased vocal and instrumental lines effectively conveyed the song’s themes of passion and undying love. Though more forlorn than the first song, Ici-bas! was equally breathtaking with its ebb and flow of chromatic lines, which highlighted the composer’s late-Romantic influences and left the audience wishing that the music lasted longer than its mere minute-and-a-half duration.

Soprano Elizabeth Fagan took Meyer’s place on stage to perform three short songs for voice and piano. Reynaldo Hahn composed the first, Si mes vers avaient des ailes, when he was just a teenager, and the simplistic beauty of the composition’s piano and vocal lines reveals Hahn’s musical and experiential naïveté throughout.

What followed were two selections from Francis Poulenc’s song cycle Ba be bi bo bu. Into the first, Poulenc incorporated themes from nursery rhymes, while the second relates the story of a troublemaking cat. With jubilant performances from voice and piano, the Poulenc selections provided a nice complement to the innocence of the Hahn composition that came before.

Next, the audience was given one last taste of Fauré as soprano Andrea Chinedu Nwoke stepped to the stage. Her rich timbre and strong projection resulted in a gorgeous rendition of the composer’s Les Berceaux, which sent shivers as the singer demonstrated her incredible vocal power and range.

Nwoke was followed by sopranos Alexandra Smith and Elizabeth Fagan in a special performance of Mozart’s buet Sull’aria, not mentioned in the program. Using a music stand as a makeshift desk, the two vocalists acted out an energetic, albeit slightly out of tune, extract from the composer’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro. Once the brief, unanticipated duet had concluded, Smith was left alone to introduce a new vibe to the stage, fusing opera style with musical theater in her performances of Stephen Sondheim’s The Glamorous Life and Michael John LaChiusa’s See What I Wanna See.

The final act of the evening featured Opera Cowgirls members Sara Jacobi, Caitlin McKechney and Meagan Brus, who gave several light-hearted performances that put an operatic spin on rock and country songs, and demonstrated the versatility of the performers’ vocal technique. Included in the performance was an evocative rendition of Bizet’s Habanera arranged for three voices, piano, acoustic guitar, and accordion. And later, the trio had the audience snapping and clapping along as they belted out growly, soulful tunes including Pistol Annies’ Hell on Heels and Elvis Presley’s It’s Now or Never, as well as an arrangement of Radiohead’s High and Dry, during which the female singers’ bright vocal vibrato added an energy and vibrancy taht differed greatly from teh mellower timbre of the English rock band.

At times, the pairing of classical vocal technique with rock and country sounds seemed bizarre and disharmonious. Still, it would be dishonest to say that this unlikely pairing of sounds and styles was not thought-provoking. Opera Cowgirls closed the evening with a delicately harmonized rendition of Leonard Cohen’s highly adorned Hallelujah, leaving the audience with a familiar tune in their ears and the opportunity to ruminate over this fresh perspective on the modern world of opera.