City opera of vancouver

City Opera of Vancouver
City Opera Logo
Location Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Genre(s) Opera
Built 1907
Seating type Reserved seating
Capacity 650

City Opera of Vancouver is a professional chamber opera company founded in 2005. It was the lead company in efforts to restore Vancouver's Pantages Theatre, built by Alexander Pantages in 1907. The 650 seat building was considered to be the oldest remaining vaudeville theatre in Canada.[1] It was listed on Heritage Canada's 2009 Top Ten Most Endangered Places List[2] and the Vancouver Heritage Register[3] as a heritage building. Regardless of these efforts, and widespread community support in favour of its preservation, Vancouver City Council twice voted to refuse restoration and, beginning in 2011, the structure was demolished. City Opera Vancouver now uses other proscenium houses in Metro Vancouver.


City Opera's repertoire base reaches from Monteverdi through to the music of our own time. On 11 March 2008, via satellite from Toronto and Vancouver, City Opera announced the commissioning of the chamber opera 'Pauline'. It will be set at Vancouver in March 1913, the last week in the life of Pauline Johnson. The libretto will be by Margaret Atwood, and the music by Tobin Stokes. It will be premiered in May 2014, at the century-old and restored York Theatre, and recorded by Naxos.[4]

New Initiatives

City Opera has to date offered multiple lecture-demos, and recitals featuring City Opera artists, at numerous neighbourhood and service institutions. These events have been given every year since 2007 across Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, at the Carnegie Centre, at Roedde House in the west end, at Italian Day 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 on Commercial Drive, at the Italian Cultural Centre, at the Nikkei National Centre, in the Jewish Community Centre, on Granville Island on several occasions, in several years of the Heart of the City Festival in the DTES, at Dr Sun-Yat Sen Chinese Classical Gardens, the Chinatown Night Market, and in every year of the Fearless and the Homeground festivals. In November 2010 they began a new opera recital series at Minoru Chapel in Richmond, B.C. They have been broadcast widely across Vancouver Shaw Cable television systems. In October 2007 City Opera produced Canada's first Sing-Along Carmina Burana, to great success. In February 2009 and 2010, City Opera participated in Vancouver's new HomeGround Festival, featuring artists from every discipline. In May 2009, City Opera produced the first in a series of New Canadian Chamber Opera workshops. This event, with twelve guest artists and recorded on DVD, workshopped the new chamber opera Sea Change, with music by Constantine Caravasillis of Toronto, and libretto by Nora Kelly.

Canadian Classics

City Opera has created a massive recording series, Canadian Classics, a survey of Canadian art music from c. 1800 to the present. It is designed in four genres: symphonic, chamber, instrumental, and vocal / choral / operatic repertoire. A National Panel of a dozen advisors has recommended worthy Canadian repertoire, and independent projects are also being considered. Naxos, the world's largest classical label, is lead partner in this long-term endeavour. Violinist Mark Fewer, pianist Rena Sharon, the Vancouver International Song Institute, clarinetist François Houle, and other distinguished artists have agreed to join the roster of Canadian Classics. Series Manager for Canadian Classics is Raymond Bisha. Canadian Classics was officially launched at the opening season gala concert of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at that city's Orpheum Theatre on 24 September 2011. The first CD released in the new series, Fugitive Colours, featured the music of Jeffrey Ryan, with the VSO led by conductor Bramwell Tovey. The series will continue with the release of 6 to 8 new CDs every year.

Board and Advisors

City Opera Vancouver is managed by an incorporated non-profit Board of Directors, headed by President Dr Nora Kelly, and in partnership with the Community Arts Council of Vancouver. Its artistic staff includes Conductor and Artistic Director Dr Charles Barber, (MA, DMA Stanford). Dr Greg Caisley (DMA, USC) serves as Staff Coach, with David Boothroyd as Staff Pianist. The company's musical advisors were the late Sir Charles Mackerras, and remain UBC Professor of Theatre Robert Eberle and Robert Baker of the Canadian Music Centre. City Opera's honorary patron is Evgeny Kissin.

Der Kaiser von Atlantis

On 1 February 2009, City Opera gave the British Columbia premiere of Viktor Ullmann's masterwork, 'The Emperor of Atlantis' ('Der Kaiser von Atlantis'). It was attended and addressed by the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Steven Point. Subsequent remarks and analysis were provided by Dr Jaap Hamburger, a child of Auschwitz survivors. This chamber opera, professionally produced, was undertaken in partnership with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. It was written at Theresienstadt in 1944, and has been recorded by Decca. All five performances sold out.

Sumidagawa and Curlew River

Opening 26 May 2010, City Opera (together with co-producers UBC Drama and Film, and Blackbird Theatre) gave the Canadian event premiere of Sumidagawa together with the opera it inspired, Benjamin Britten's Curlew River. The first, drawn from the 15th-century Japanese noh play, starred Butoh artist Denise Fujiwara as Madwoman in a choreography by Natsu Nakajima. The second starred tenor Isaiah Bell as Madwoman, together with John Minágro, Sam Marcacinni, Joel Klein, and members of the Vancouver Cantata Singers. It was directed by John Wright of Blackbird Theatre, with scenography by Robert Gardiner of UBC Theatre and Film. In the course of preparing this production, City Opera pioneered the use of Skype with its out-of-town artists.

It was widely reviewed: "almost unbearably beautiful"—Globe and Mail; "magnificent" -- Opera Canada; "magical, very enriching, captivating, mesmerizing"—Joy Coghill; "I almost hesitate to write for fear my words of praise will be inadequate to describe last night's production. I think I should just say it was one of the most powerful, moving experiences I have ever had in the theatre, and I so admire City Opera Vancouver for its vision and courage in staging a presentation that bridged such an enormous cultural gap so successfully."—Rosemary Cunningham, author, 'Bravo! The History of Opera in British Columbia'; "A powerful telling of the story" -- The Georgia Straight; "What a fantastic show. A delight to see, a delight to hear." -- George Zukerman; "Tenor Isaiah Bell as the Madwoman was breathtaking. He sustained an intensity of emotion which never toppled into hysteria. His restrained gestures, like the Madwoman’s simple, haunting curlew motif in the music, slowly built suppressed tension and let Britten’s music work its magic."—Review Vancouver


On 21 February 2011, it was announced that City Opera Vancouver had received the largest opera commission grant in Canadian history. The Annenberg Foundation of Los Angeles, in collaboration with its organization, awarded City Opera $250,000 US to create a chamber opera based on an original story about the war in Iraq. That story was inspired by the life and work of USMC Sergeant Christian Ellis. The new opera, using the working title Fallujah, was created over a period of two years, with its workshops held in Vancouver. The fourth and final workshop set was given before an invited audience at the Frederic Wood Theatre on 13 May 2012. It is scored for nine singers and eleven players. The librettist is Heather Raffo, of New York City, and the composer Tobin Stokes of Vancouver. On 2 July 2012, the work was officially launched via a long-form feature published by The Associated Press, picked up from New York to London, Athens to Cairo, Tokyo to Los Angeles. At the same time, the Annenberg Foundation's affiliate began the online release of a series of filmed excerpts from the opera. On 9 July, it was announced that the foundation had granted City Opera Vancouver an additional $100,000 toward the making of these film materials.

Brokeback Mountain

On 28 April 2011, City Opera Vancouver announced plans to commission a chamber version of the opera, with music by Charles Wuorinen and libretto by Annie Proulx, for premiere in 2015. In October 2012 the project was put on hold by City Opera of Vancouver due to lack of financial support.

City Opera Vancouver Online





2. Looking to the East, via Britten. David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun, 20 May 2010

3. Bravo! The History of Opera in British Columbia. Cunningham, Rosemary. Harbour Publishing: Vancouver, 2009

4. City Opera Vancouver Lands $250,000 Commission. David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun, 22 February 2011

5. City Opera Vancouver to stage chamber-opera version of Brokeback Mountain. Jessica Werb, Georgia Straight, 28 April 2011

6. War trauma in the wings at City Opera Vancouver. Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail, 19 November 2011

External links

  • The City Opera of Vancouver
  • The Pantages Theatre
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