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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 and OnLine Opera 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.

City Opera’s Longtime
Artistic Director To Retire

Vancouver, BC – The Board of Directors of City Opera Vancouver (City Opera) today announced that Founding Artistic Director Dr. Charles Barber will be retiring from his position, effective March 1, 2023. His departure follows the successful premiere of City Opera’s fifth commission, Chinatown, which chronicles the rich history of this dynamic Vancouver neighbourhood.

Charles, now 73, has helmed the organization since 2006, when it was founded with a vision of bringing live, accessible chamber opera to Metro Vancouver. The company has gained a stellar reputation for creating new work that highlights stories of marginalization and resilience, and for its free community concerts. 

Read the full announcement here

 

ROSE-ELLEN NICHOLS AWARD

The Rose-Ellen Nichols Award in the Performing Arts is now open, and applications are being received. Two awards will be made, one each in Voice/Opera and in Costume Design. Applications must be received no later than 30 January 2023. Decisions will be announced in March 2023.

This career-building Award of $2500 each is available to Canadians ages 18 – 40. It is named in honour of the late Rose-Ellen Nichols, an extraordinary mezzo-soprano of Coast Salish background. Pursuant to Rose's final direction, we particularly welcome applications from members of First Nations communities.

Further Award information may be found at https://www.facebook.com/RoseEllenNicholsAward

If you wish to apply, please contact roseellennicholsaward@gmail.com at early convenience, and ask for the Award application form.

Thank you for helping us uphold the name and memory of a wonderful friend and colleague.

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Now Concluded:  NOT A DAY GOES BY

City Opera & Stephen Sondheim at Chutzpah! Opening Night, Thursday 3 November 2022, 8pm, in the Wosk Auditorium.

With singers Jesse Alvarez, Jenny Andersen, Cecilly Day, Amy Gartner, Tainui Kuru, Jacob Leonard, Eva Tavares, Brandon Thornhill, and with pianist Roger Parton and producer/curator  Alan Corbishley.

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CHINATOWN

Our new opera is a story of family and neighbourhood, racism and resistance, history and tomorrow. In two acts and two hours it examines six characters, two families, and a chorus of male ghosts, from the building of the CPR through to our own times. It deals with violence and despair, the Head Tax, the Exclusion Act, paper sons, and paper promise.

It ran 13 - 17 September 2022, at the Vancouver Playhouse, and led to the longest standing ovation in City Opera history.

An original cast album has been recorded, thanks to a generous award from the Canada Council, and will be released in early 2023.

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Our audience speaks...

HR

I can’t get the music of Chinatown out of my head! Or the story. You have a real winner; I think it’s the best score you’ve ever commissioned—by far. If I lived in Vancouver I would go see it again, just to hear that glorious music. I do hope you are going to manage to record it somehow. It’s too good not to get a much wider audience.

 

TV

I was very moved by the opera; the story is heart-breaking and the words and music are intensely powerful, plus the fantastic performances made for an outstanding evening - congratulations!

 

JB

C and I loved it - the spare and affecting score, the creative staging that brought life and vibrancy to so many moments, and the deep care evident in every thread of the production. Audiences seemed to really respond to the piece, and there was a great buzz in the audience chamber. A great energy, too... I loved CHINATOWN, and I'm so glad I saw it. It is an important work that has a lot to say... Thank you for bringing this music and this story into the world. I wish for a bright future for the opera.

 

M

I cannot overstate how much I love this Opera.  The Hoishan dialect is the main language used, and the chief instrument is an erhu.  So traditional and yet so avant garde; ditto the story line: traditional and yet not sentimental but deeply moving.  The young singers are all excellent. The translation poetic.  I can go on... I am really proud that City Opera managed to create such a significant work to mark our history in time. 

 

SC

Just a quick note to say Congratulations!!! You did it again! It was a fabulous show and very moving story as every opera must be. Thank you so much for envisioning and making it happen.

 

AW

Thank you for a very memorable experience. I can only remotely imagine the length of the journey, the amount of work, and the pain you all have gone through to make it happen. I am very grateful and feel incredibly privileged to have been in the audience. Such a strong performance, powerful and intimate, just great singing, a deeply moving score, I could go on.

 

AC

Loved CHINATOWN so much ❤️❤️❤️

 

ML

Thank you all for creating this amazing opera. I'm sure you're hearing from everyone how powerful it is to hear this story told in our language. Something I have never felt before welled up inside me that words cannot describe. Fantastic run of CHINATOWN @CityOperaVan 💕Next adventure...recording this awesome opera! 🎶

 

KB

I was fortunate to watch this opera this weekend. It was absolutely brilliant & very moving.

 

PCHC

Congratulations to the entire cast & crew on a truly beautiful production! Such an important and unique opera.

 

VC

Chinatown at @CityOperaVan was incredibly meaningful, and not just because I cried a dozen times. Bravo to everyone involved!

 

DS

It's been a few days since we saw Chinatown and the opera still resonates deeply in the mind and the heart. The music, the story, the poetry: bravo to Paul Yee, Alice Ho, @madeleinethien @CityOperaVan! The joy of seeing old and new friends made it that much more special.

 

FL

I enjoyed last night's performance very much including the lobby welcome. The entire cast, including the musicians, was outstanding. The telling of the story was enlightening to an old guy like me who was born and grew up in the city only peripherally aware of that history. Thanks for sharing your original idea with all of us; we are better off for it.

 

WR

highly, highly recommend! Deeply moving stories about Chinese families torn apart during exclusion era. A very special opera 💔 - absolutely beautiful performances. 👏👇

 

NK

A magical evening of fine music, poetry & the universal story of love, loyalty, resilience inspired by our own #Chinatown ! Congrats PaulYee, AliceHo, @madeleinethien & all the great singers @CityOperaVan  Hoisawa is now memorialised in this opera. Amazing!

 

AC

Really enjoyed the history, setting & story of CHINATOWN. One of my favourite writers Madeleine Thien researched meticulously the neighbourhoods and streets of Vancouver, capturing life during the 24 years of the Exclusion Act

 

P&PS

The story line Libretto is so shockingly truthful, honest and well written by Madeleine Thien...  If it was not for the Chinese, B.C. might not have become part of the so called Dominion of Canada. The integration of the Hoisanwa and English language  was another memorable part of the opera performance… There were so many highlights that you left us with, that everyone involved should be sincerely complimented for a truly landmark operatic success!!!

 

BC

I like to think that I’m relatively well-versed in the world of opera, but CHINATOWN still managed to surprise me. I am so appreciative of all the layers in this production. I often found myself getting emotional during moments when singers were singing in Toisan (!!!!!! not enough exclamation marks for this)...  I am sure there were/are many challenges, and community-engaged work is so hard (especially when it’s something as subjective as art). Thank you for all your hard work, empathy, dedication, commitment, and perseverance.

 

ACWW

“Chinatown” opera opening night — an amazing evening culminated from three years of consultations with members of Vancouver’s Chinatown.  Congratulations to City Opera Vancouver, Madeleine Thien, Alice Ping Yee Ho & Paul Yee

 

Prof Dorothy Chang, UBC

I attended "Chinatown" last weekend and have been meaning to write to you ever since to wish you a huge congratulations!  The opera was beautiful, emotional and stunning, such a unique combination of Chinese and Western art forms.  Your music was colourful and evocative, also such a wonderful blend of East and West.  The opera is an amazing work...

 

Charles Barber, City Opera

Madeleine Thien created a world of men who came to build the railway, stayed to build a city and a home, women and men who endured unrelenting racism and sang to tell the tale. It is a ghost story, and our story. Aided by the marvelous translations of Paul Yee, and the glorious music of Alice Ping Yee Ho, theirs is a work we have never heard before. It is a first. A wonder.

 

David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun

The opera in concert performance of Chinatown works brilliantly... Ultimately, what makes Chinatown is the score. Embracing the fraught and complicated task of mixing western and traditional Chinese instruments, Ho has written music of grace and subtlety. The sonorities she creates are fresh and evocative, and never, ever overwhelm her singers. Her vocal writing is considered and effective and, while the piece doesn’t really break down into obvious solo turns, duets, and ensemble pieces, Ho manages to respect these tried and true operatic conventions.

She has created something of real significance and outstanding beauty.

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The Story of Chinatown

Interviews with the creators and cast of Chinatown:

The Music of Chinatown

Here is Vania Chan in the Keefer Street aria, from Act Two, Scene Two:

 

Here is Derek Kwan in the Paper Son aria, from Act Two, Scene Two:

 

Here, a preview of Erica Iris Huang as the Hoisan Singer, from Act One, Scene One.

 

And here Emma Parkinson with Anna's Aria:

 


Three arias from CHINATOWN were presented as part of the VSO's Day of Music.

 

CHINATOWN is a project supported by The Vancouver Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, The City of Vancouver, Edwina and Paul Heller Memorial Fund, R&J Stern Family Foundation, Doretta Lee Memorial Fund, Quan Family Fund, The Illahie Fund, Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation, Wuchien Michael Than Foundation, Susan and Keith Mew Family Foundation, Hamber Foundation, Griffin Foundation, Heffel Fine Art Galleries, McLean Foundation, Susan and Wayne Mew Foundation, Vancity Credit Union, and our many individual donors.  

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CITY OPERA, SO FAR

THE BOOK OF MY SHAMES • NOT A DAY GOES BY • CHINATOWN • AT THE STATUE OF VENUS • SONGS FOR BETTER DAYS • PERRUQUERIES • THE HUMAN VOICE • CITY OPERA ONLINE • FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY • Jack Trip / Virtual Studio • PoPUpOpera • BERLIN:  THE LAST CABARET • NIGREDO HOTEL • MISSING • THE LOST OPERAS OF MOZART • PAULINE • FALLUJAH • SUMIDAGAWA & CURLEW RIVER • THE EMPEROR OF ATLANTIS • CARMINA BURANA • YEAR-ROUND CONCERTS & SPECIAL EVENTS