Welcome to City Opera 

We are a professional chamber opera company. We produce opera from its rise in 1600 through to new opera alive in our own time. We commission new Canadian opera. We present concerts that animate our brand, widen our audience, and take our music to people where they live. 

At City Opera, we are building a repertoire. Building an audience. And building a company. Welcome to the rising future of opera.

NEWS FLASH:  we begin the first text-only workshops for CHINATOWN, the new opera by Madeleine Thien. 30 November, 7pm, at Carnegie. 1 December, 6:30pm, Floata. 2 December, 2pm, CNL Auditorium. Free, of course


23 - 25 January 2020


Berlin. 1934. The last cabaret. The last night.

Members of a cabaret troupe gather one last time to perform for their friends, some of whom have already gone missing. It is 1934 in Berlin. The Weimar Republic has collapsed, and the world is turning upside down.

This is the premise of City Opera's next MainStage. It is unlike anything we have done before, and it speaks directly to our own times. Using music authentic to the period, it will be presented in a cabaret setting at Performance Works on Granville Island. BERLIN runs 23, 24, and 25 January 2020, all at 8pm. Tickets will go on sale November 28, and our remarkable cast will be announced at that time.


Our objective is to present music from the Weimar era, cross-connected in a new narrative. Weimar was a period of tremendous experiment and daring, risk and transgression, gender liberation, discovery and allure – especially in Berlin. We bring it to life again.

Our further objective is to examine the rise of fascism through the manufacture of chaos and consent, deliberate lying on an unimaginable scale, and the exploitation of race, fear, and gender. The failures of the Weimar Republic may anticipate ours today.

We thank our funders: the Canada Council for the Arts, Edwina and Paul Heller Memorial Fund, McLean Foundation, Hamber Foundation, Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation, John Fluevog Shoes, Edith Lando Charitable Foundation, annual operating support from the BC Arts Council and City of Vancouver Cultural Services, our many private donors, and more.

Our artists include Alan Corbishley, stage director; Charles Barber, music director; Roger Parton, music historian; John Webber, set and lighting designer; Jayson McLean, production manager;  and, Joanna Garfinkel, dramaturge.

BERLIN:  THE LAST CABARET also reflects on the irony and shattering truth of Brecht, in his 1941 allegory The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui. At the end of the play, as people like ourselves congratulate one another on defeating the tyrant and the tyranny, we hear this:

If we could learn to look instead of gawking,

We'd see the horror in the heart of farce…

Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!

Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,

The bitch that bore him is in heat again.



September 2021


Libretto by Madeleine Thien

City Opera Vancouver has announced its fifth commission in nine years.

“CHINATOWN will tell the story of the history, people, and culture of one of our most important neighbourhoods. It could not be more timely,” said City Opera president Janet Lea.

Its librettist is the renowned writer, Vancouver-born and raised, Madeleine Thien is best known for her historical novel DO NOT SAY WE HAVE NOTHING (2016), winner of the Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Award. It has been translated into 17 languages. CHINATOWN will be her first opera.

Said Thien, “I’m honoured to have this chance to immerse in the intricate and complex life of Vancouver’s Chinatown. For over a century, this neighbourhood has been the centre of gravity for the imaginings, stories, experiences, heartbreaks and hopes of Vancouver’s Chinese community. Many people – from divergent and overlapping histories and languages – call this neighbourhood home; for me, Strathcona and Chinatown are at the core of my own childhood and teenaged years.

“I’m deeply moved to be part of this project. I look forward to learning all that I can, and to working on an opera that might create, in unanticipated ways, a profound experience of our shared history and future.”

CHINATOWN is planned for world premiere in September 2021. The evening will commence with a community dinner, and a memorial parade to The Vancouver Playhouse. This special event will honour the elders and community leaders who have made Chinatown possible, unique, and essential, all these years.



The Vancouver Foundation has awarded City Opera Vancouver a three-year creation and production grant for its new opera, CHINATOWN.

This complements an award previously granted by the City, through its Creative City Strategies programme, on 13 November 2018.

“We are honoured and grateful,” said City Opera president Janet Lea. “The generosity and imagination of The Vancouver Foundation, and of the City of Vancouver, will allow us to lead creation of an important work about the history, the people, and the future of Chinatown.

“Art elevates discourse. It moves us from the abstract to the personal. Our new opera will lead to a new discussion -- at many levels -- about one of our most important neighbourhoods and peoples. It could not be more timely.”