About City Opera

Welcome to City Opera Vancouver

We are a professional chamber opera company. We produce opera. We create new opera. Year-round, we present recitals and concerts. We work in a metro area of 2.5 million people, and in a culture of tremendous creativity.

The Company is a registered non-profit society with federal tax status, governed by an elected Board of Directors. Our creative vision is guided by an Artistic Committee and Director, whose work is complemented by a General Manager, committed volunteers, and the artists we engage for performances.

BUSINESS NUMBER: 84880 7186 BC0001

City Opera Vancouver was organized in 2006 in tandem with efforts to restore the century-old, 650-seat Pantages Theatre in the Downtown Eastside. We are a member of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, and a Community Partner of the Canadian Music Centre.

What We Do

We commission and create, re-discover and present, chamber opera. We specialize in small forms, intimate eloquence, Canadian themes and artists. We tell stories in music that are relevant to our time and people. We emphasize stories that are bold and vivid and memorable. We believe opera can tell any story, in any time and place.

Throughout the year, we also give concerts and special events – 208 to date. About one-third of them have been presented in the Downtown Eastside. Most have been given in Vancouver, but we have also performed in New Westminster, North Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, Maple Ridge, and West Vancouver. These events build our brand, widen our audience, and take our music to people where they live.

What We Have Done So Far

2007 • Sing-Along Carmina Burana. St Andrew’s-Wesley Cathedral

A Canadian event premiere, it attracted 800 singers and the creation of a new company.

2009: The Emperor of Atlantis. Norman Rothstein Theatre

A British Columbia premiere, in co-production with the Holocaust Education Centre, this unique and powerful opera was written in a Nazi camp.

2010: Sumidagawa & Curlew River. Frederic Wood Theatre

A Canadian event premiere, this double-bill told the story of a woman and the murder of her son: first, in dance as fifteenth century Butoh, and then as Britten’s twentieth century telling of the identical story in opera.

2012: Fallujah. Frederic Wood Theatre

A world premiere, funded by a $350,000 USD grant from the Annenberg Foundation of Los Angeles, this anti-war story tells of one incident from two perspectives. In 2016 it was produced at Long Beach Opera in Los Angeles, and by New York City Opera. In 2017, it won a Los Angeles Emmy Award. 

2014: Pauline. York Theatre

The world premiere of Margaret Atwood’s first opera, it is the story of the writer, performance artist, and proto-Canadian Pauline Johnson, and a meditation on identity. It was also given in 2015 at Le Festival Québec en toutes lettres.

2016: The Lost Operas of Mozart. Christ Church Cathedral

An event premiere, our first comedy, set in Limbo, and starring Vancouver Symphony conductor Bramwell Tovey as The Impresario, ours was a re-construction of three brilliant operas Mozart began but never finished.

2017: Missing. York Theatre, Vancouver. Baumann Centre for Opera, Victoria

The world premiere of a story everyone knows, about a woman no one remembers. Libretto by Marie Clements, music by Brian Current, directed by Peter Hinton. Its creation was made possible by an award of $127,000 from The Vancouver Foundation, and its 13 performances a major grant from the New Chapter programme of the Canada Council, and from Vancity Credit Union, among others. Missing is a co-production with Pacific Opera Victoria. In 2019, it toured to Victoria, Prince George, and Regina.

2018Nigredo Hotel.  The Historic Cultch Theatre. A bizarre, dark, and comic operatic thriller by Nic Gotham and Anne-Marie MacDonald. Directed by Alan Corbishly, starring Tyler Duncan and Sarah Vardy, with a four-player combo on a stage lit and designed by John Webber, this was a Vancouver premiere production.

2019: Missing, on tour. Our 2017 commission, by Marie Clements and Brian Current, toured to Prince George and Regina and has now received 22 performances. The tour was led by our partners at Pacific Opera Victoria. In February 2022, Missing will be produced at Anchorage Opera in Alaska.

2020:  Berlin 1934 The Last Cabaret. Performance Works. Set in 1934 in the collapse of the Weimar Republic. We look at how a bold and daring period in the arts was ultimately crushed by lies, fear, hate, and the egomania of one man. If it sounds contemporary, it is. Presented in the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Berlin sold out all four nights.

2021:  City Opera Online. In the face of COVID, we began filming concerts and opera. All are free to the public.

January:  The Human Voice

March:  Perruqueries

May: Songs for Better Days

June: At the Statue of Venus

2022:  Chinatown. Our 5th commission in 10 years, and a new opera by Madeleine Thien, Alice Ping Yee Ho, and Paul Yee. Music Director Mary Chun. Stage director Desdemona Chiang. Five nights at the Vancouver Playhouse.

How We Pay For It

  • Year-round, we raise money for mainstage productions, special concerts and events, ongoing operations, and the invention of new work.
  • We are the grateful beneficiaries of support from the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council, Creative BC, BC Gaming, Metro Vancouver, The Vancouver Foundation, the City of Vancouver, Vancity Credit Union, numerous other foundations and businesses, and hundreds of individual donors. We thank them all.
  • Our mainstage projects typically cost between $100,000 - $400,000. The latter figure includes commissioning, work-shopping, and related new work costs.
  • City Opera Vancouver has never run a deficit.

The Future

We believe that chamber opera is a significant part of the future of all opera.

Our affordable advantage, agility, low overhead, and commitment to powerful and relevant stories makes it so.

Thank you for reading this.