He's an Old Chicago bartender who doubles as a fire-breathing clown

Opera has its tenors, basses, sopranos and altos. And, in the case of this weekend’s “Pagliacci,” it also has a fire-breathing artist.

The show, staged by Opera Omaha on Friday and Sunday, is about an Italian theater troupe and a play within a play. That’s where Omaha-based fire-breather Jack Austin comes in. He plays a nonsinging role as one of the clowns in the traveling entertainment corps.

We talked to the 38-year-old Brooklyn, New York, native about his unusual career and his new gig as an opera performer.

Q. How did you get into fire?

A. I was out of the service and wandering around trying to figure out what to do. I met a pretty lady involved in the circus. She taught me aerial things and (someone else) taught me fire-breathing. It’s really been my most marketable skill so far.