City Opera News for 18 Sept 2020

These are strange, wretched, and melancholy times.

Everyone wants it to be over, awaits the vaccine, tries to obey the rules, finds no certain end in sight, and relies more than ever on friends and family.

At City Opera – as with so many other companies – we are re-inventing and re-creating ourselves. Opera is taking new forms, setting new agendas, discovering new audiences, and telling great stories in novel technologies.

In this issue of City Opera News we offer thanks, updates, and a version of hope.

Check out VIRTUAL STUDIO, a brilliant new group performance technology from Stanford. Comparison with the old tech is staggering. It will be freely available within weeks.


PoPUpOpera mini-concerts were held at the Museum of Vancouver; Il Centro (twice); Sun-Yat Sen Chinese Classical Gardens (twice); CRAB Park; Trout Lake Community Centre; Beaconsfield Park; MacLean Park; International Village Plaza; SkyTrain stations at Broadway and at Chinatown; Canada Line stations at King Edward, Oakridge, and Langara; and, at Grandview Park.

Our thanks to singers Chloé Hurst, Taryn Plater, Anastasia Pyshna, and Szu-Wen Wang, and to online accompanist Roger Parton. Thanks also to City Opera GM Trudy Chalmers, and Concerts Director Alan Corbishley. Particular thanks to BC Gaming for its ongoing support.

Original thanks? Ian Rye, Paul Winkelmans, and Pacific Opera Victoria. We saw their own outreach this summer and, with their kind consent, stole the idea and adapted it to Vancouver. 16 concerts later, we thank them again.

Our thirteenth AGM

Will be held via Zoom on Monday 21 September, at 7pm. It is open to all members, in good standing, of the City Opera of Vancouver Society.

City Opera online

Our first major initiatives are rolling out this fall: La Voix Humaine / The Human Voice, and the…

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. Online, and free. Coming to YouTube starting Monday 28 September. One new entry a day, for a month.

La Voix Humaine / The Human Voice

In December, we present our first online opera: La Voix Humaine / The Human Voice. This one-person drama, by Cocteau and Poulenc (1928, 1958), is the powerful and heart-breaking tale of a soprano in telephone conversation with her male lover, who tells her that he is walking away. In our version, we present a flip of gender, and a metaphor of global pandemic.

Now in English, celebrated tenor Isaiah Bell sings to his male lover, and into the abyss of COVID. Now, in a Zoom call impaired by lag and freeze and dropped signals, technology is enemy to intimacy. The agony of failed love is compounded by distance and desire, by the anaesthetic of the machine. It is the story of us, today, in 2020.

The Human Voice / La Voix Humaine is a powerful, vivid, and memorable re-statement of an original masterpiece. It runs about 45:00, is accompanied by pianist Roger Parton, filmed by Chris Randle, and given with English supertitles. It will be rolled out episodically, like a web serial. Its scenes, four to six minutes each, will appear each day until the whole story is told. At the end, the complete work will be at City Opera Online for a year.

And from our friends at Vancouver Opera…

In the summer, to our mutual surprise, Vancouver Opera and City Opera discovered that we were both doing La Voix Humaine. Tom Wright called us, we laughed, and quickly agreed that each would promote the other. We happily do so, now:

La Voix Humaine @ Vancouver Opera
by Francis Poulenc
A powerful lyrical tragedy

Digital Premiere: Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 7:30PM

In this emotional solo piece, a young woman clings desperately onto the phone that connects her to her former lover. Through intimate conversations she slowly reveals her anguish over his abandonment and admits to attempted suicide the night before. This melodrama about unrequited love is led by an all-female all-Canadian trio: soloist Mireille Lebel, stage director Rachel Peake and Vancouver Opera’s Principal Répétiteur, Kinza Tyrrell.

For more information or to subscribe to the Vancouver Opera 2020-2021 Digital Season, visit


Work continues in very good order. After public text workshops in November, December, and February, Madeleine Thien’s libretto is complete, Alice Ping Yee Ho’s music is about 2/3 done, and we just concluded our first round of national online auditions.

Thanking the frontline

Health workers in BC have risked more, and given more, than anyone else. They keep us safe, and make us well. We owe them greatly, and more than just a joyful noise at 7pm.

A while back, we proposed mini-concerts at local hospitals. VGH asked if they might film one of them as a video to be circulated to all of their medical staff. We said “yes”, and Eve-Lyn de la Haye will sing. It’s the kind of digital distancing that keeps everyone safe, and allows us to say thanks one-on-one. It will be filmed on October 7.