Melina Moore of Valley Vocal Arts and Big Apple Productions prepares to serenade audiences in Mamma Mia! A Tribute to Italy at the Italian Kitchen Aug. 18. (Joshua Jerrid Photography)

A tribute to the old country

The Italian Kitchen Company and Big Apple Productions present Mamma Mia! A Tribute to Italy

The crisp scent of freshly sliced tomatoes and roasted red peppers coalesces with the warming aroma of melted cheese as waiters cart the four-course dinner around the small, landmark restaurant. Between the antipasti and dolci, classic operatic sounds of Italy flood the restaurant.

The Italian Kitchen Company and Big Apple Productions present Mamma Mia! A Tribute to Italy Aug. 18 at the Italian Kitchen.

With music by Melina Moore of Valley Vocal Arts and Big Apple Productions, and cuisine by chef Bryan Flint, the performance pulls the audience from their chairs in downtown Vernon straight to the old country.

“It’s a perfect marriage of music and great Italian food,” said Moore. “We’re going for touching all of the senses.”

The event is an experiment to test how Vernon crowds react to a dinner concert, Moore said, adding that it’s not your typical background music at a restaurant, but rather a full, interactive concert and four-course dinner.

Mamma Mia! A Tribute to Italy is a revival of an opera jam from the now defunct Okanagan Vocal Arts Festival — a three week event featuring performers from across the globe.

“One of the events was an opera jam where people would come and have dinner and drink,” Moore said. “We’d all gather at the Italian Kitchen, and we would spontaneously burst into song. It was so much fun.”

After the festival ceased operations, Moore no longer thought about the opera jams, until recently when she approached the Italian Kitchen owners about bringing back the event.

“This unique Mamma Mia event has a great local flavour and in fact has some great history, as Melina Moore and The Italian Kitchen go way back,” said Sherman Dahl, president of the Pretium Group that encompasses the Italian Kitchen. “The Italian Kitchen has done opera nights with Melina Moore in the past, and these events were a huge success as local Vernon residents lined up for great Italian food, wine, and music in one of downtown’s oldest and most historic buildings.”

The evening starts off with a welcome and champagne reception, with a variety of music by Valley Vocal Arts advanced students. Guests are then treated to antipasti and insalate, followed by the main course and main concert featuring Moore, a dolci service, and a final thank you to the performers to wrap up the evening.

“The Italian Kitchen is just perfect for this,” Moore said. “It’s a Vernon landmark restaurant. We want the audience singing along at their tables.”

Tickets for the four-course meal and show are available for $75 per guest at the Italian Kitchen. Limited tickets remain.