Vancouver Opera celebrates golden anniversary

Published on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 by Margot Griffiths

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The coming year marks Vancouver Opera’s golden anniversary! At a time when some opera houses are closing their doors, the VO is celebrating 50 years of outstanding success.

Under the dynamic leadership of James Wright, the Vancouver Opera has operated in the black for the last 10 years, and has much to celebrate in the 2009-2010 season.

In his own words, Jim is “looking at our golden anniversary season and beyond with excitement, confidence and pride. We’ll salute the company’s future . . . and pay tribute to the illustrious past.”

Opera is an intriguing art, combining visual drama with some of the most beautiful music ever written. And for all its theatrical majesty and musical heights, opera is fully accessible to everyone.

You don’t have to recognize a tenor’s high C to be transported by the sheer glory of the music. And there may be
that magical “aha” moment, when you do recognize a famous aria – a melody woven into the fabric of your unconscious.

With the inevitable flux in public opinion and theatrical tastes, why has opera endured? Quite simply, the music is sublime.

The composer dominates, with music that in some cases has stood the test of centuries, and in other cases is a more
contemporary gift. Though the music is constant, opera productions vary in staging and in costuming.

Unforgettable in my memory was Bizet’s Carmen, staged during Vancouver’s Expo ’86. When Escamillo entered stage left as a swaggering, hip-swiveling Elvis, the audience was captivated. Anything goes in opera, when anchored by a composer’s genius.

This will be a superlative season for the Vancouver Opera. It’s all here during the fiftieth year – comedy, tragedy, pathos, political commentary, brilliant productions, gorgeous sets and, of course, gifted artists. On November 5, an inaugural gala ushered in the year, featuring soprano, Liping Zhang and other international soloists.

The regular season opens in late November with Norma; Bellini’s tragic tale of a Druid priestess, forced to choose between duty and love.

This is followed in mid March by the Canadian premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China, described by Jim Wright as, “an important work that it taking its rightful place alongside the greatest operas of the 20th century.”

Comic opera follows in April with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, a frothy journey of mischief and misunderstandings on the path to love.

And ending the season is the poignant Madama Butterfly; Puccini’s much loved tale of opera’s quintessential tragic heroine. During this celebratory year, I will be back in this space, taking a closer look at the four productions, all of which promise world caliber entertainment.

Though its history is long, opera is as relevant today as it was in its infancy. Sustained by emotionally vibrant music, opera is an exploration of the human experience in all its vast complexities. Don’t miss a note.
For information and tickets: or call 604-683-0222.