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Vancouver Opera Festival 2018

Running from April 28 to May 6, the second annual Vancouver Opera Festival celebrates Russian composers.

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2018-2019 Season and Festival

Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème, Charles Gounod’s Faust, and Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola

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Vancouver Opera Festival Announcement


Otello, Dead Man Walking and The Marriage of Figaro feature superb singers, stunning designs. Vancouver Opera Festival will be a wide ranging celebration of the vocal arts, designed to appeal to diverse audiences, all set conveniently in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Programming also includes a new commissioned video art installation by award-winning artist Paul Wong, performances by vocal stylist Ute Lemper and Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, and the Carmina Burana Sing-Along with the Vancouver Bach Choir. Activities and experiences for audiences of all ages throughout the day.

Venues: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, Orpheum Theatre, Vogue Theatre, and on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza

Vancouver, BC ~ Three dazzling new opera productions are at the core of the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival, April 28 to May 13, 2017.

Full-scale productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s late-career masterpiece Otello, featuring powerful tenor Antonello Palombi in the title in his Canadian debut, and Jake Heggie’s modern classic Dead Man Walking, with charismatic bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as Joseph De Rocher, will be presented at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Award-winning set designer Erhard Rom, who created VO’s internationally renowned 2010 production of Nixon in China, is the scenic designer for both productions.

Mozart’s magnificent The Marriage of Figaro, at the intimate Vancouver Playhouse, will feature a terrific cast of emerging stars, sets designed by Vancouver’s multi-Jessie-Award-winning Drew Facey (Stickboy, 2014) and contemporary costumes by Canadian fashion designer Sid Neigum, who is receiving international attention for his bold geometric creations.

In addition to the core opera productions, the 16-day Vancouver Opera Festival will offer a new VO commissioned visual art installation, performances by superb vocal artists, new collaborations with other Vancouver arts organizations, The Carmina Burana Sing-Along with the Vancouver Bach Choir, and engaging, immersive experiences for people of all ages.

Kim Gaynor, VO’s new general director, says, “I am thrilled to be joining VO at this exciting moment in its history. At the core of our sixteen-day festival are three fantastic new productions, two of which are of operas rarely or never before seen in Vancouver. The festival format is an exciting extension of what VO has traditionally done, and it creates a platform to explore repertoire, collaborations and many new opportunities to engage, educate and entertain audiences, new and old.”


The Operas

VO’s music director Jonathan Darlington will conduct the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Vancouver

Opera Chorus in the company premiere of Jake Heggie’s very moving Dead Man Walking (2000, libretto by Terrence McNally), based on the well-known book by Sister Helen Prejean and the popular movie. Dead Man Walking is the most-produced 21st century opera, with important productions in the United States, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Australia, and in Canada at L’Opéra de Montréal and Calgary Opera.

The internationally heralded Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch (Don Giovanni, 2014) will sing the role of convicted murderer Joseph De Rocher. Legendary Canadian mezzo-soprano Judith Forst will sing the role of his mother, Mrs. Patrick De Rocher. The role of Sister Helen Prejean will be sung by the sensational American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges. Internationally renowned Stage Director of Dead Man Walking Joel Ivany represents “the future of opera” in Canada and will be taking this new production to Minnesota Opera, a company he was worked with before. Sister Helen herself is slated to appear at a free public forum at the Festival, to share her compassionate interest in the issues of capital punishment, incarceration and restorative justice.

Maestro Darlington will also conduct Verdi’s monumental Otello in its first VO production in 36 years.

The title role will be sung by acclaimed Italian tenor Antonello Palombi, who will be making his Canadian debut with Vancouver Opera. This season he is also singing Otello worldwide including performances in Athens, Perth, Tokyo and Italy.   “Palombi has a rich and beautiful voice, a touch baritonal in timbre….he sings with consistent sensitivity and warmth, and he acts passionately as well” – International Opera Review.

Powerful Vancouver-raised soprano Erin Wall will sing the role of Desdemona returning to VO since her last appearances in the 2014 production of Don Giovanni and 2011’s La traviata.

Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl, a favourite of Vancouver audiences, will sing Iago.

Michael Cavanagh, Stage Director for Otello, started his career at Vancouver Opera as an apprentice and since then has directed well over 100 productions at opera companies all over North America. He directed Nixon in China for VO where he was teamed up with Set Designer Erhard Rom. Since that production Erhard and Michael have gone on to design two new operas together at the San Francisco Opera. After the debut of VO’s Nixon in China at the Swedish Royal Opera in Stockholm, Michael was invited back to create a new Aida.

Otello and Dead Man Walking will be performed 4 times each, in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Mozart’s masterful The Marriage of Figaro is the third opera production in the Festival. Leslie Dala conducts members of the VO Orchestra in 13 performances in the intimate Vancouver Playhouse.

Award-winning stage director Rachel Peake (Stickboy, 2014) directs the striking new contemporary production and a cast comprised of emerging opera stars from Canada and beyond. For the first time in VO history, the sets will be constructed entirely in the VO Scene Shop, located at the O’Brian Centre for Vancouver Opera.

All opera performance dates are listed at the bottom of this news release.

Visual Art by Paul Wong
VO has commissioned Audain Prize-winning artist Paul Wong to create “Five Octave Range”, a new immersive site-specific video installation which will incorporate archival images from five decades of VO productions. Paul Wong is an acclaimed visual, media and interdisciplinary artist and curator. Known for pioneering early visual and media art in Canada, he has founded several artist-run groups, spearheaded lively discussions around public arts policy, and organized events, festivals, conferences and public interventions since the 1970s. (Opening April 27 at 8:00pm)

Vocal Performances
German singer and actress Ute Lemper, one of the world’s great song stylists, makes a rare Vancouver appearance, for a performance of her show “Last Tango in Berlin”, with support from the Goethe Institute. Backed by a superb trio (piano, bandoneon, bass), Ute Lemper explores the backstreets of Berlin, Paris, New York and Buenos Aires in songs by Weill & Brecht, Brel, Piaf, Ferré and Piazzolla. (Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 8:00pm, Orpheum Theatre)

This concert is part of Germany @ Canada 2017, an exciting cultural program presented by the Goethe-Institut and the German Embassy highlighting the German-Canadian friendship in honour of Canada's sesquicentennial year. Running from coast to coast and throughout the year, the program brings a dynamic sampling of German contemporary culture to Canada. Under the motto “Germany @ Canada 2017 – Partners from Immigration to Innovation / L’Allemagne @ Canada 2017 – Partenaires: de l’immigration à l’innovation”, this celebration includes over 40 events - concerts, exhibitions, conferences, performances and film screenings.

Updated program details can be found here: / and

In collaboration with Music on Main, VO presents Tanya Tagaq, the Polaris Prize-winning throat singer, in performance. Nunavut-born Tagaq combines Inuit tradition with modern electronica, industrial and metal influences in a riveting vocal performance. “Tagaq is riveting, especially when multi-tracked and given eight or so minutes to range jazzily around art-metal backdrops” – The Guardian (Friday, May 12, 2017 at 8:00pm, Vogue Theatre)

The Carmina Burana Sing-Along
A sing-along version of Carl Orff's mid-century masterpiece, with Music Direction by Leslie Dala, will challenge and delight both seasoned singers and choral enthusiasts. Members of the community can register to rehearse and perform with the Vancouver Bach Choir and sing on-stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The audience will be taught the first and final movements of the work during the event itself. Co-presented with the Vancouver Bach Choir. (Wednesday, May 3 at 8:00pm, Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

Film Night at the Opera
In collaboration with DOXA Documentary Film Festival, VO will screen an engrossing opera-themed documentary Becoming Traviata. (Monday, May 8, 2017 at 7:30pm, Vancouver Playhouse)

Young Singers Masterclasses
In four sessions, the singers of tomorrow work on technique and explore repertoire, coached by principal artists from the casts of Otello, Dead Man Walking and The Marriage of Figaro. The public is welcome to come to just one, or attend all four and witness the singers’ process as it unfolds over two week.  (May 2, 4, 9, 11 at 3:00pm, Festival Tent, Queen Elizabeth Plaza) Free admission.

New Works Project
UBC student composers and writers collaborate with two singers and a pianist to create new chamber opera works. A chance to see the creative process in action. (May 3, 5, 10, 12 at 3:00pm, Festival Tent, Queen Elizabeth Plaza).  Free admission.

The Artistry of Youth: A Performance
The first performance of the evening will feature young singers who participated in the Young Singers Master Class program and the second half of the concert will be performances of scenes developed during the Young Composer Project.  Ticketed event. (Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 7:30pm, Festival Tent, Queen Elizabeth Plaza) Free admission


Delta Opera & Performance Academy
VO and the Delta School District are collaborating in Delta School District’s innovative year-long Opera & Performance program for students in grades 8 through 12 called “Opera Academy”. They will present the culmination of their work. Free admission, RSVP required. (Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 6:00pm, Festival Tent)

Experiences for Families

Opera Tales
Fairy tales and traditional stories come to life in Opera Tales – a clever mash-up of narrated story and opera selections by 4 energetic singers and a nimble-fingered pianist, all members of VO’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program. Featuring familiar music by composers such as Rossini, Bizet and Mozart, Opera Tales is designed to delight the young AND their parents. In addition to the one-hour performance, the audience will have an opportunity to meet the singers and get hands-on experience with sets, costumes and props. Tickets for The Artistry of Youth, Delta Opera & Performance Academy’s presentation, and Opera Tales will be available in spring 2017. (Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 12:00noon – 1:00pm, Vancouver Public Library, Alice Mackay Room) Free admission

Opera in Context: Forums and Discussions
VO continues its long tradition of exploring opera’s music and stories, and of engaging audiences in discussing important contemporary issues which arise from the work it produces. Here are some of the highlights (but please refer here additional events):

Opera Speaks: In Conversation with Jake Heggie                                                                                                                                  
A conversation with Dead Man Walking composer Jake Heggie and director Joel Ivany with Vancouver Sun music critic David Gordon Duke about the future of opera. (Friday, April 28th at 4:30 pm, Festival Tent, Queen Elizabeth Plaza) Free admission.

Opera Speaks about Ethical Justice in the 21st Century                                                                                                 
Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking, joins a distinguished cross-cultural panel; Shelley Joseph of Truth and Reconciliation Canada; and Dr. Brenda Morrison, Director of the Centre of Restorative Justice at SFU about justice in contemporary society to discuss the death penalty, incarceration and their alternatives. (Saturday, April 29 at 4:30pm, Festival Tent, Queen Elizabeth Plaza) Free admission.

Opera Speaks: The Music of Verdi, Heggie and Mozart
Composer, conductor and educator Nicolas Krusek provides a closer look at the composers of this year’s Festival operas in a free lecture/presentation. (Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 4:30pm, Festival Tent, Queen Elizabeth Plaza) Free admission.

Preview Talks
Free to opera ticket-holders, these lively and informative free 30-minute talks by VO experts prepare audiences for the performance, with insights into the story, the creators, the music and the production. In the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the talks take place in the theatre (mezzanine level). In the Vancouver Playhouse, they take place in the upper lobby. They are scheduled for one hour before curtain at each performance.

Queen Elizabeth Plaza – Festival Tent and Restaurant
The Queen Elizabeth Plaza, home to the Festival Tent and restaurant will be a hive of activity every day of the Vancouver Opera Festival. Almost every evening at the restaurant, patrons can enjoy the Happy Hour from 4:00pm to 7:00pm, a hub for socializing, light refreshments and appies. The Festival Tent will feature intriguing programming: talks, panel discussions, and performances.

Dates & Times of Opera Performances
Otello, By Giuseppe Verdi
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Friday, April 28, 7:30 pm
Sunday, April 30, 2:00 pm
Thursday, May 4, 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 6, 7:30 pm

Dead Man Walking, By Jake Heggie
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Saturday, April 29, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, May 2, 7:30 pm
Friday, May 5, 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 7, 2:00 pm

The Marriage of Figaro, by W.A. Mozart
Vancouver Playhouse
Sunday, April 30, 2:00 pm
Wednesday, May 3, 2:00 pm
Saturday, May 6, 1:30 and 7:30 pm
Tuesday, May 9, 7:30 pm
Wednesday, May 10, 7:30 pm
Thursday, May 11, 7:30 pm
Friday, May 12, 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 13, 1:30 and 7:30 pm

Plus 3 post-Festival performances:
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 16, 17, & 18, 7:30 pm