At a time when cultural institutions are on the brink due to Covid restrictions, it may seem crazy to open a theater and a museum. But that is precisely the agenda of one very brave family this autumn.
Dace and Enrico Pezzoli are professional magicians who have delighted audiences around the world for over two decades. In a roller coaster of events, their touring schedule had to be scrapped this year, just as their lifelong dream of opening a centre for illusionism began taking shape.
“Everything fell like dominoes,” says Dace. “But the world of illusionism is so fascinating, and we want to share the love with people in Riga.”
As their names suggest, Dace is Latvian and Enrico is Italian, from Turin. She was a teacher who did tricks for friends at parties. He had a doctorate in theater history and a deep interest in magic. They met 25 years ago in Germany and… well, fell under a spell.
“He is the magician, and I am his muse,” she says. “With his background, it’s not just about learning a few tricks from YouTube - it’s much deeper than that.”
The pair have performed in 79 countries and received a Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society, whose previous winners include David Copperfield and David Blaine. But earlier this year, a multi-city tour of the US was cancelled after a few shows, losing a lot of money and leaving them marooned in Latvia.
By coincidence, after many rejections, in late 2019 they finally got a bank loan to launch their theater, “Mystero.” They bought a handsome 1930s movie theatre in suburban Riga, which will house their personal collection of magic paraphernalia, host educational events and showcase top magic acts from around the world.
When I visit in the last week of October, the place is a hive of dusty activity. Dace is sporting overalls instead of a glam costume, and wearily recounts the painting, concreting and plastering skills she has picked up over the last few months. But her smile returns as she proudly pulls back plastic covers to reveal historic posters and magic sets, tarot cards and Ouija boards dating back to the 1700s. There’s an exhibit dedicated to the great Houdini, and a suitcase which belonged to Kastello, a pre-war mind reader from Jūrmala.
And visitors will have the opportunity to levitate, turn their friends into flowers and do other neat stunts.
The real world
Like countless other entrepreneurs, 2020 has been an uphill battle for the Pezzolis. They have to invest the same effort to the market, stage and perform a show for a socially distanced audience of a few hundred as for the 2,000-seat venues they would have played in the US. The only thing that hasn’t shrunk is the tax bill, Dace laments.
But a never-say-die optimism shines through. The cosmopolitan couple could have settled anywhere, but they choose to call Latvia home. They love the “powerful, healing energy” of its wild places, and the fine artists who do costumes and stage designs.
And local audiences are appreciative but very honest.
“If your act works in Latvia, the rest of the world is easy peasy,” laughs Dace.
This feature was originally published on the website of the Latvian Institute and is reproduced here with permission.