Mercury Opera finds the perfect venue for Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata
Mercury Opera’s slogan may be “Opera where you least expect it,” but for this week’s production of the iconic La Traviata, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting venue in Edmonton than the Chez Pierre Cabaret.
La Traviata tells a tragic tale of overlapping love triangles in 1920s Paris, with Violetta Valéry (an accomplished courtesan) and Alfredo Germont (the first man she feels has truly loved her) at the centre.
And within the intimate club setting of Chez Pierre, Mercury Opera artistic director Darcia Parada says an eight-piece orchestra will bring Giuseppe Verdi’s music to life while internationally acclaimed singers unleash their voices up close as if every audience member is a part of the characters’ party. Guests are even invited to attend in ‘20s attire to suit the occasion.
“Opera doesn’t have to be big to be grand,” Parada says. “I always think of opera as having been the earliest form of cinema because it combines all the elements that one experiences in the movies today, like score and heightened emotion. The only thing that’s missing in a standard opera production that would be equated with film is the close up, so in my productions—because of their more intimate nature—the audience feels like they are almost a part of the action.”
Initially Parada only planned to stage La Traviata at the more “ethereal” Studio 96 for a few all-ages performances, but after discovering Chez Pierre on a separate film shoot, her mind was set on expanding the production.
“I’ve always wanted to stage something at Chez Pierre, and I’d always wanted to stage La Traviata,” she says. “It just is so fitting for the Chez Pierre, because the signage has can-can dancers on it for heaven’s sake.”
And already knowing several singers who boast chemistry with each other from previous performances around the world (either in La Traviata or in other Mercury Opera productions), Parada knew she could deliver something special to Edmonton.
“Just because it’s a small production doesn’t mean that the talent matches the size of the venue,” she says.
Calgary-based soprano Kathleen Morrison has sung in larger venues in Berlin for years, but she says playing Violetta in La Traviata in a club like Chez Pierre is a dream come true.
“She’s sort of Meryl Streep and Princess Diana wrapped up into one,” Morrison says. “She’s someone that has really done the best with the cards that she’s been dealt and really excelled at it. She really is sort of the essence of every female trying to struggle and to get ahead and to sort of find her way.”
And with performances that Morrison promises audiences will feel just as much as they’re heard, it will be an unforgettable experience, whether you’re an opera fan or not.
“You’re going to be seeing real people singing with that sort of power from their bodies, with emotion,” she says. “I think that everyone’s going to walk away sort of seeing something that they haven’t seen in Edmonton before, and maybe something that they’re going to want to see again.”
Thu., Mar. 1 – Sat., Mar. 11 (7 pm)
Chez Pierre Cabaret (Evenings) and Studio 96 (3 pm Sunday matinées, Admission by donation)