City Opera News for 1 Oct 2022

A triumph

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.

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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!

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.

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.


CHINATOWN is the eloquent and poetic imagination of Madeleine Thien.
The brilliant fusion of Western and Chinese musics by Alice Ping Yee Ho.
The subtle and powerful Hoisanese translations of Paul Yee.

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.

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.

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!

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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!

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.

“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.

City Opera thanks our many Chinese-Canadian advisors over many years, our superb singing and allied artists, & all who attended, applauded, and were so moved as to grant the longest standing ovation in company history.

We thank all who supported the work: our many friends and private donors, the multiple family foundations who helped, and most notably the Vancouver Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council and Government of British Columbia, Vancity Credit Union, and the City of Vancouver / Cultural Services / Civic Theatres. Thank you.

Production stills courtesy Michelle Koebke / Diamond’s Edge Photography.

A Woman’s Voice…

CHINATOWN composer Alice Ping Yee Ho has just released an album we strongly recommend: A Woman’s Voice. Available here.


Sid Chow Tan

On 13 Sept, City Opera hosted FINDING CHINATOWN. Here, our five panelists — with our friend Sid Chow Tan centred and faithful, as always. He was a friend for many years, and made a great contribution to the opera, and to the community he loved. Rest in power and in peace, Sid.


1 – 31 October: Festival of Contemporary III

Running online, The Festival of Contemporary III. Diverse voices. Daring visions. A curated look at dance, drama, design, music, poetry, cinema, song, photography, opera and more. All 21st C. All dazzling. All Canadian. All online. Free, of course. Click here to view the Festival

3 November: Not A Day Goes By

City Opera’s concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim at the Opening Night of the Chutzpah! Festival. 8pm, Thursday 3 November, at the Jewish Community Centre, 950 West 41st x Oak.

Starring Jenny Andersen (soprano), Eva Tavares (soprano), Amy Gartner (mezzo), Cecilly Day (mezzo), Tainui Kuru (tenor), Jesse Alvarez (tenor), Jacob Leonard (baritone), Brandon Thornhill (baritone), and pianist Roger Parton. Concert Producer: Alan Corbishley

INFO & TICKETS: Click here.