Mercury Opera’s Fiamma

On Friday night, Mercury Opera turned a downtown parking lot on 104 Street into a veritable opera stage. You may remember Mercury Opera from their innovative 104 Underground event last year, that saw a live performance orchestrated on the LRT platform of the Bay/Enterprise Square station. This year, Director Darcia Parada brought the opera out and onto the street with Fiamma (Italian for “flame”).

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Performers at the Eyecare Group

It wasn’t clear on the website what the “gala” preceding the performance entailed, so we had a full supper before purchasing the $25 tickets at the Armstrong Building. At that time, we were given a passport that would be honoured at nine different locations around 104 Street for drinks and treats.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Mack tries on some velvet shades at the Eyecare Group

We didn’t end up having enough time to patronize all of the sites, but were able to sample from several of the businesses. The flow of food and drink was much more controlled this time around when compared with the 104 Underground as we had to redeem our passports to imbibe and eat.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

The crowd at Dauphine

We enjoyed the return of Skinny Legs and Cowgirls (now as a “roaming chef”, or caterer), who served tasty wild mushroom crescents, snacked on fresh pretzels from Cook’s Corner, and satisfied our sweet tooth with cupcakes from Delish. I think the organizers did a fantastic job of engaging small caterers and businesses to supply the food for this event.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Skinny Legs and Cowgirls

Evoolution also participated, serving sweet concoctions of drinking vinegar and club soda. We’d heard about this use for their flavoured vinegars, but hadn’t tried it ourselves yet. It was definitely an interesting spin on an Italian soda.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Evoolution

It was great to see Amber’s Brewing Company out and about, serving their first batch of beer produced at their new location of Hog’s Head in St. Albert.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Jim Gibbon of Amber’s Brewing Company

At 8pm, we gathered in the Melcor parking lot, admiring the lights that transformed the space. Then, led by a stilt walker, paraded down the Alley of Light to the other side of the parking lot.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Parade

A cube van was curiously parked in the lot, but the mystery was soon revealed – the back door rolled up and exposed the musicians gathered inside. With that, the show began, a spotlight directed at an opera singer situated on the top of the Armstrong Block fire escape.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

All the world’s a stage

The performer must have been freezing, but didn’t show it at all, her voice penetrating the cold night.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Spotlight

The show progressed to include other performers, located in the lot itself, and elevated slightly on mechanical lifts. At this point, the vantage point for spectators suffered a bit. The risers helped, but for any audience members not situated in the front row, the view was obstructed by the parking arch.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

An aerialist from Firefly Theatre

But in a way, the location couldn’t be as perfect as a typical opera stage because of its guerrilla nature, and it was a suitable trade-off for this unique presentation of opera. Vibe Tribe, known for their fire dances, was a great inclusion, adding more visual interest with their flaming displays.

Mercury Opera's Fiamma

Fire and song

With the rousing applause granted to the performers at the conclusion of the show, there was no doubt the crowd enjoyed Fiamma! We can only look forward to whatever Mercury Opera dreams up next, but surely, it will again be opera “where you least expect it”. Bravo!

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

Stunning

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

Encore

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.