Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sarasota Opera: La Traviata & The Bijou Café

Based on Florida's gorgeous Gulf Coast, the Sarasota Opera is now in its 59th season. Opened in 1926, the Opera House was designed by Roy A. Benjamin in the Mediterranean Revival style and recently enjoyed a $20-million renovation in 2008, designed to restore the historic theatre to its original glory. Decorative details have been brought back to their former glory, seating has been replaced, and the orchestra pit almost doubled in size to accommodate operas that require larger orchestras. Arriving to see La Traviata, our first opera while staying in Florida, we began the evening with dinner The Bijou, one of Sarasota's most sought after fine dining destinations, and conveniently located in the heart of the Theatre and Arts District. The cuisine at Bijou reflects chef-owner Jean-Pierre’s South African and French heritage, such as his famous Mozambique-influenced Piri-Piri Shrimp and superbly delicious Shrimp and Crab Bisque. 

One of our favourite restaurants in Sarasota, enjoying a lovely dinner before the opera combined two gems in one night. ‘A toast to the pleasures of life!’ – so sings Violetta to her new admirer Alfredo and her party guests in the opening scene of Giuseppe Verdi’s classic La Traviata, a passionate portrait of a worldly courtesan forced by bourgeois society to give up the man of her dreams. Based on the true romance of Alexander Dumas and Marie Duplessis, La Traviata tells the story of Paris’ most famous courtesan, Violetta Valéry, who leaves her destructive life to live with her first real love, Alfredo Germont. However social bias and Violetta’s failing health turn love to tragedy and remorse. Swept up in grandeur of one of the world’s most beloved operas, the Sarasota Opera production featured the wonderfully gifted Elizabeth Tredent as Violetta, and tenor Andrew Surrena as Alfredo Germont, both former apprentice and studio artists, showcasing both the quality of these programs and the loyalty of the Sarasota Opera to the careers of its young artists. An absolutely sensational evening, it was one of the most emotionally charged productions of Verdi's operatic masterpiece I've seen. Bravi.

Opened in 1926, the Sarasota Opera House enjoyed a $20-million renovation in 2008, 
restoring the historic theatre to its original glory

La Traviata launched the Sarasota Opera's 2017-18 Season

Arriving early to pick up our opera tickets, we then strolled over The Bijou for dinner

One of our favourite restaurants in Sarasota, enjoying a lovely dinner before the opera combined two gems in one night

The Bijou seasonal menu with an emphasis on fresh local produce and sustainable, abundant seafood

Glass of Bellussi Prosecco


Fresh warm homemade bread

Soupe à l'oignon with gruyere cheese 

Shrimp and Crab Bisque with Cognac, Sherry and Cream

Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie

Chicken Paillard with organic breast, olive oil, roast vegetables, garlic, spinach and lemon butter

Chef Jean-Pierre’s famous Mozambique-influenced Piri-Piri Shrimp served with charred shishito peppers, Meyer lemon and creamy South African-style grits

Key Lime Parfait

Complimentary chocolate truffles with berry coulis

After dinner at the Bijou, we walked across the street to the Sarasota Opera
for the evenings outstanding performance of La Traviata

Shrimp Piri Piri
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of chef J.P. Knaggs 

1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined with tail on, patted dry
1/2 cup white wine
splash of lemon juice
2 tbsp softened butter

1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil

Mix the marinade ingredients together and allow to sit for 4 to 5 hours. In an extremely hot pan, salt and sear the shrimp. Flip them over and add marinade, white wine and lemon juice. Reduce the sauce and swirl in soft butter. Serve over grits, and spoon the sauce over the dish.

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