Mercury Opera’s 104 Underground (an operascape)

Last Friday, Mercury Opera brought opera to the people – is there any place more democratic than a public transportation platform?

Although the show itself was free (transit operators weren’t checking for fare payments), a $25 ticket gave opera revellers access to some pre-show food and drink at four street-level businesses. I really loved the design of the entire event – from its transformation of an everyday space to a glorious stage, and its recognition and utilization of existing shops.

Given the event started at 6pm on a Friday night, we thought patrons would trickle in, and adoption of an early bird mentality wouldn’t be necessary. We were wrong; by the time we stopped into some of the participating retailers at 7pm, the trays were empty and the pitchers dry.

Mercury Opera's 104 Underground

The crowd at Coup

In hindsight, the expectation of any event starting at 6pm with the promise of alcohol would be accompanying food of some substance (especially with the $25 admission price). Instead, there were platters of cheese and pretzels at deVine’s, and olives and pickles at Coup. We heard 29 Armstrong had been serving croquettes (long gone by the time we arrived), and the Eyecare Group had offered up desserts (also since devoured), but in the end just wondered whether the organizers simply didn’t anticipate the crowds that turned up.

Mercury Opera's 104 Underground

Food at deVine’s

Thankfully for Mack and I, we had both eaten, but happily had some wine at deVine’s, and champagne at the Eyecare Group. People were clearly enjoying themselves, and we almost regretted not arriving at the party earlier.

Mercury Opera's 104 Underground

Ed serving wine at deVine’s

At 8pm, the group was encouraged to head down to the LRT platform to ready for the show. Chairs for the Vif Quartet had been set up at the centre of the platform, and while the crowd eagerly waited for the arrival of the performers (by train, of course), volunteers and peace officers held caution tape in place to make sure all observers remained safe.

Mercury Opera's 104 Underground

A packed platform

The show, in a word, was spectacular. The singers used the circular benches as their stage, and in their gorgeous Natasha Lazarovic gowns (it was as much a fashion show as an opera performance), colours reflecting on the mirrored panels surrounding them, it was a sight to see.

Mercury Opera's 104 Underground

Arriving by train

Mercury Opera


The acoustics were better than expected, and the live musicians that accompanied them elevated the show even more. When trains full of passengers drove past, their aghast and puzzled expressions were priceless – these kinds of things don’t happen in Edmonton, do they?

Mercury Opera's 104 Underground


When the operascape was over, the performers left as they came – on the train. The void they left was palpable – we didn’t know what to do with ourselves! There should have been an after party to capture the buzz and energy in the air.

Congratulations to Mercury Opera for a fabulous event. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next!

You can read Mack’s post on the event here (including videos of the performance), and take a look at his photo set here.

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