A made-in-Red Deer opera about the life of fashion icon Coco Chanel is already a sell-out.
It’s COCO!, is running four shows from Thursday through Saturday at the Scott Block and — each night has 100-plus tickets sold, said its co-creator, Cheryl Cooney. As of Tuesday, only student tickets were still available for the Wednesday night dress rehearsal, through Eventbrite.
“We are delighted with the ticket sales. We wanted to bring the arts back in Red Deer and this is a jump-start for the arts,” said Cooney.
The original production, based on the tumultuous life of the fashion designer, was written by Cooney — a retired piano instructor at Red Deer College — and professional opera singer Anna Maria Kaufmann, a Lacombe native now based in Germany.
Kaufmann is playing the title role of a woman who’s considered to be among the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.
Cooney and Kaufmann first teamed up to create an original opera in 2018, but their process was temporarily interrupted in 2020. After the COVID border shutdown was lifted in 2021, Kaufmann was once again able to enter Canada to co-write with Cooney.
The two women wanted to feature a strong protagonist, so chose to recount the life of Coco Chanel, who had to overcome poverty — including a stint in a convent after the death of her mother — to launch her own fashion house after the First World War.
The French designer ultimately became a household name after popularizing a comfortable, “casual chic” look for women that replaced the restrictive corseted silhouette of the early 1900s.
It’s COCO!, directed by Darold Roles with choreography by Ron Schuster (both formerly instructed at RDC), has musical theatre elements, so should be accessible to those who aren’t big opera fans, said Cooney.
“We used different styles of music in the production” — which Cooney composed. Cooney and Kaufman jointly wrote the show’s lyrics.
This week’s run in Red Deer is considered “workshop” performances. This means audience reactions will be considered for possible changes to the show in future.
Cooney intends to videotape a performance and send the video to opera companies across the province and Germany to see if there’s interest in another company re-staging it in future.