Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vancouver Opera and the Furry Faces

Why is Vancouver Opera taking part of the BCSCPCA's Paws for a Cause walk on Sunday, September 13?

Because we love our animals, that's why. And, it's a great cause to support!

This year, BCSPCA has set a goal to raise $950,000 to help companion, farm and wild animals.

Every dollar donated for the Paws for a Cause walk will help in the following:

$80 feeds a litter of puppies for eight weeks;
$100 feeds a litter of abandoned kittens for one month;
$75 neuters one cat;
$84 feeds and cares for a cat for one week;
$100 neuters one dog;
$105 feeds and cares for a dog for one week;
$110 spays one cat;
$120 covers emergency response for animal rescue for one night;
$150 spays one dog;
$200 pays for emergency and first aid equipment for our constables;
$250 pays for one dental exam;
$1,000 provides 20 beds for dogs;
$10,000 pays for the investigation and prosecution of one animal cruelty case.

For more facts on how your dollar will help animals in your local community, click here.

Vancouver Opera would love to invite anyone who's interested in participating to join us! Be a part of our team! You can either make a donation or come out with us on the walk September 13. Email us if you'd like to join in the fun at

To sponsor Vancouver Opera, click here to go to our fundraising page. Online donations are secure and you'll receive an instant electronic tax receipt.

We're super excited and look forward to the walk with our two and four-legged friends!

And yes, expect more cute animal pictures!

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Operamania 101: Dy-Na-Mo!

Raise your hand if you've watched an Arnold Schwarzenneger movie? Raise your hand if you like at least one Arnie movie? C'mon, I know you're out there.

I won't deny it. I like watching "save the day" action movies because of the IMAX sized screen, Dolby/THX surround sound and the larger than life stars who are all about the kicking a** and taking names.

In 1987, a Stephen King novel called The Running Man made its way to the big screens, starring Arnie, Maria Conchita Alonso, ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura and Mr Velveeta himself, Richard Dawson of Family Feud fame.

In the not too distant future, convicted criminals known as "runners" could seek a pardon by out-dodging/outwitting executioners aka "stalkers" in a gladiator-type, reality tv game show being broadcasted from underground.

Influenced by the 80s popularity of WWF, I'm sure, these stalkers are outfitted in ridiculous costumes and weaponry, as well as having cheesy alias' such as Sub-Zero, Fireball, Buzzsaw, Captain Freedom and...Dynamo, the opera-singing stalker.

Click here to see Dynamo make his entrance by singing the aria from Act III of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

Now click play to hear the real deal, Vedro, mentr'io sospiro.

Dynamo is perhaps the most comical of all the hitmen. His gladiator-like costume consists of flashing lights, reminiscent of a Christmas tree and a Marvin the Martian/hoplite helmet. His weapon of choice is the Wainwright Electrical Launcher, a taser type gun. Dynamo hunts down his prey in a dune buggy, all while singing arias from Italian operettas.

In the pursuit of Arnie, Dynamo's dune buggy is flipped, pinning him inside the vehicle. Arnie refuses to kill Dynamo.

However, Dynamo does bite it spectacularly in the end, in a laugh out loud electrocution scene when he tries to rape Maria Conchita Alonso and she shoots up the sprinkler system above them thus short-circuitng his electrical power pack. But not before the viewers sees him in all his glory; the opera-singing Dynamo in his granny panties.

You can't beat the 80s in action movies with its body counts and wisecracking one-liners. Hello, Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone?

Ah, they just don't make movies like that anymore.

Thanks to Sean for letting me know about this opera related find!

~ Ling Chan

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top 10 Fridays: Hughes the Man!

Anyone who grew up in the 80s knew who John Hughes was. The director's name was as recognizable as the stars he cast in his movies.

Unfortunately, John Hughes passed away on August 6 in New York from a heart attack.

So in honour of the man who brought us THE best teenage-angst filled movies, we dedicate today's Friday Top 10 poll to all the Hughes fans out there and ask: What John Hughes movie would you like to see turned into an opera?

Cast your vote on the right sidebar and we'll post the results next week!

Uncle Buck
Why? Because we ALL have a family member like Uncle Buck. (11% of votes)

Sixteen Candles
Why? Sometimes birthday wishes do come true. (17% of votes)

She’s Having a Baby
Why? I personally would LOVE to hear an operatic version of Kate Bush's This Woman's Work. (zero votes)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Why? Girls loved him. Boys wanted to be him. (41% of votes - tied for first place)

Weird Science
Why? Isn't it every boy's fantasy to build himself the perfect woman? (5% of votes)

The Breakfast Club
Why? Because no matter which clique you belong to, we all share the same problems. So which breakfast clubber were YOU? (29% of votes)

Pretty In Pink
Why? The classic from the wrong side of the tracks love story. Blaine may have had the car, but Duckie had the style. (41% of votes - tied for first place)

Some Kind of Wonderful
Why? Another triangle. Tomboy is in love with the sensitive artiste who is in love with the girly girl. (5% of votes)

Home Alone
Why? Cheek pinchable 8 year old takes on dim-witted home invaders. Bumbles and fumbles ensue. (11% of votes)

National Lampoon's Vacation
Why? Because nobody does vacations better than the Griswalds. And Christmas for that matter. (zero votes)

Wow, there is some great opera buffa material in here.

So vote for your favourite(s)! And if your choice is not on this list, leave it in our comments page.

~ Ling Chan

An Epic Drive for An Epic Opera

Last week, Selina, Jen and I got to go on a little fieldtrip.

To celebrate their production of Wagner's Ring Cycle, Seattle Opera's Bravo Club was hosting Laser Ring (a la Laser Floyd or Laser Zeppelin style) at the Pacific Science Museum. So with the blessings from the higher-ups, we drove down to the States.

What should've taken 3 hours to get to downtown Seattle turned out to be 4+ hours excruciating drive. You gotta love the I-5 during rush hour.

We made it in one piece (barely) and were late 15 minutes to the one hour laser show. But we got there just in time for the Ride of the Valkyries!

Laser Ring offered a condensed version of The Ring, with the best of music handpicked by the General Director, Speight Jenkins, accompanied with live commentary. The arias chosen came from different recordings, some featuring the Met Opera and Bayreuth Festival.

As we were "fashionably" late, it was pitch black by the time we got inside the laser dome. We sat on the floor, along with the scores of other people. The seats were filled up already but I think that being on the floor was the better way to see Laser Ring cuz you could really spread out or kick back.

When the laser lights were especially bright, I could make out the silhouettes of people laying down on their backs, some with pillows and blankets. It was like a giant slumber party!

The commentator's voice and enthusiasm reminded me of the fieldtrips I took in elementary school, where school kids would oooh and aaaah at what was being explained to us. There were quite a number of families at Laser Ring which I was glad to see. Get those kids young with the appreciation for opera!

When the show was over and the lights turned on, I was delighted to see that there were tables down at the front of the auditorium selling chips and other snacks, along with pop, beer and wine. Had we not been late, I would've totally indulged and am sure this would've added to the whole experience.

I risk sounding like a dork here, but I only wish that the sound was better. It may have been the recordings, (perhaps they were not re-mastered recordings) it may have been the speakers, but the music sounded a bit muddy and scratchy. It would've rocked so hard if you could hear the music THX, Dolby surround sound style. Because it's all about the music, you know.

However, everyone looked like they had a lovely time. Overall an enjoyable experience and a great way to bridge newcomers or the opera-curious to the world of opera.

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Woof! VO Goes to the Animals

To all our two legged and four legged friends:

On Sunday, September 13, Vancouver Opera will be doing the walk with the BCSCPA's 2009 "Paws for a Cause...Walk for the Animals" campaign. This event is the largest fundraising campaign in support of animals in BC.

VO is participating in Paws for a Cause as a part of our Golden Anniversary Community Connections program, where VO has pledged a total of 10000 hours of volunteer service to charitable organizations as a thank you to the community for 50 years of support.

The Community Connections program which launched July 1 has already raised 2000 volunteer hours! And we've just begun.

Some organizations touched were: BC Children's Hospital Foundation, Camp Moomba Yogathon, Weekend to End Breast Cancer, Powell Street Festival, Union Gospel Mission and Blogathon.

So if you're a lover of opera and animals like we are here, join us! Be a part of our team! You can either make a donation or come out with us on the walk September 13.

To sponsor Vancouver Opera, click here to go to our fundraising page. Online donations are secure and you'll receive an instant electronic tax receipt.

Who knows? We may even have some skittles candies to give out on our walk...

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Operamania 101: Big Lucy

This is for all the sports junkies out there who may think what's opera have to do with football? And by football, I mean "footie" or soccer to most North Americans.

Well, perhaps prior to 1990, the 2 worlds went together like chalk and cheese.

But that was before Luciano "Big Lucy" Pavarotti stepped onto the pitch with his lung-busting performance of the epic show-stopper Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Nessun Dorma, which translates to "None Shall Sleep", became the signature tune for the BBC's coverage of that year's World Cup as English fans watched their teams make it all the way to the semi-finals.

Football and opera were Pavarotti's passions. His father was a tenor and as a boy, Pavarotti was a goalkeeper and winger of his town's football team. But his love for football was edged out when the choir that he performed with won first prize at the Llangollen Festival, an international competition in Wales.

By 1990, Pavarotti was a famous opera tenor. But his fame broadened to celebrity status when he performed as one of The Three Tenors during the World Cup, thus entwining football and opera together and winning him legions of new fans. Football fans who may have never heard opera before. Football fans who have made the Nessun Dorma aria the most widely-played football song ever.

With closing lyrics of "Vanish, o night! Set, ye stars! At dawn, I will win!", it's no surprise this aria became an anthem of conquest.

For his final performance before his death in 2007, Pavarotti chose Nessun Dorma for the finale of the opening ceremony at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. The 35,000 strong crowd responded with a thunderous standing ovation.

The spirit stirring and heart soaring Nessun Dorma will forever be Luciano Pavarotti's signature song.

~ Ling Chan

Friday, August 14, 2009

Top 10 Fridays: Opera in the Movies

Opera story lines are so rich in emotions, with its high highs and low lows. It's no wonder that operas are ripe for the picking in being adapted into movies.

In fact, you may have watched some of these movies without knowing they were based on very famous operas.

So for this week's poll, we'd like to know which one is your favourite contemporary movie inspired by an opera? Tick off your choice(s) on our poll on the right sidebar and we'll post the results next week.

M. Butterfly directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone. The 1993 movie is based on Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. (20% of votes)

First Name: Carmen by Jean-Luc Godard. This 1983 movie is loosely based on Bizet's Carmen. (6% of votes)

Rent, the 2005 movie is based on Giacomo Puccini's La boheme. The movie stars Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin and Taye Diggs. (13% of votes)

Carmen: A Hip Hopera starring Beyonce Knowles, Mos Def, Wyclef Jean, Mekhi Phifer, Lil' Bow Wow. Based on Bizet's Carmen. (6% of votes)

The Magic Flute directed by Kenneth Branagh. This 2006 English adaptation film was set during World War I. (26% of votes)

The 1999 movie Topsy-Turvy tells the story about the creation of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. (no votes)

Onegin starring Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler is a 1999 film adaptation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. (no votes)

Tristan and Isolde is based on legend that inspired Wagner's opera of the same name. The 2006 movie stars James Franco and Sophia Myles. (13% of votes)

Lovespell, the 1981 movie starring Richard Burton and Kate Mulgrew (yes, of Star Trek: Voyager fame) also inspired by Wagner's Tristan and Isolde opera. (6% of votes)

2001's Moulin Rouge starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan Mcgregor. Directed by Baz Lurhmann, the movie is based on Giuseppe Verdi's opera La traviata. (60% of votes)

Not to fear - I haven't forgotten all you old time technicolour movie buffs! Classic movies inspired by operas will be featured in a future top 10 post. Stay tuned!

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Operamania 101: Fire Up the Bat Signal

Still in a superhero kinda mood, this week's Operamania 101 will spotlight the thinking person's superhero: Batman. Without any superpowers such as invisibility, wall crawling or superhuman breath, Bruce Wayne used his smarts, his infinite moolah and technology to kick some serious criminal butts.

But like all superheroes, there was a trigger that spurred him to don on a latex costume and fight crime.

In Batman Begins, the 2005 movie by Christopher Nolan, the young Bruce Wayne falls down a well and right into the nest of a bat's cave, where he is swarmed.

Bruce's chiroptophobia from the recent trauma strikes one fateful night when he goes to see the Mefistofele opera with his parents. The bat costumed performers flapping around on stage bring back the memories of being attacked in the cave. Bruce asks to go home and the family leaves the opera early to meet their doom in a desolate alley.

Mefistofele is an opera based on the Faust legend and written by Italian composer Arrigo Boito. Mefistofele aka the Devil lays a bet with the heavens that he can win the soul of Faust. Instead of being terrified when Faust meets Mefistofele, he strikes a deal: his soul in exchange for worldly bliss.

The song Folletto! Folletto! as heard on Batman Begins is from Act 2: The Witches Sabbath. It is here where Mefistofele takes Faust to witness an orgy on Brocken Mountain. Faust then has a disturbing vision that his love, Margarita is in chains with her throat cut.

Not quite the appropriate viewing material for a young boy, yes? But then again, Bruce Wayne turned out to be not just an ordinary boy.

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, August 6, 2009

VO Volunteers At Powell Street Festival

Last Friday, Vancouver Opera was pleased to volunteer for set up at the Powell Street Festival. Here are some pictures of our day of fun.

Putting up the 3 dozen or so pop tents before pitching the big frame tents and laying out wood flooring to the show stage

Tim Horton's breakfast van provided coffee, juice and timbits

Opening the tents up

Moving tents across Woodland Park

Taking a break

A bit of shade in the 30C heatwave

Special thanks to the volunteers: Jim, Adrianne, Tracey, Jennifer, Jenny, Caroline, Selina, Annie, Jen, Heather, Iris and Chris.

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Operamania 101: On with the Motley

The director's cut of The Watchmen came out a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't seen it, you must. It's 28 minutes longer than the original theatrical release and comes with an extra one-two punch of graphic-ness. Being a fan of superhero franchises, I waited for the director's cut than renting the dvd when it first came out and the movie did not disappoint.

So what does a superhero movie have to do with opera?

In The Watchmen, the narrator Rorschach writes in his journal dated October 16, 1985, that The Comedian Eddie Blake, who was murdered, understood the cruel world's behaviour. Blake treated the world like a joke, even becoming a parody of it. But he was the only one. No one else saw the joke and that's why Blake was so lonely.

And so Rorschach tells the joke of Pagliacci the Clown.

I pagliacci is a two-act opera written by Ruggero Leoncavallo. The opera tells of the tragedy of a husband who becomes enraged with jealousy as he suspects his wife of being in love with another member of their commedia dell-arte troupe.

As the heart-broken Canio puts his make up to become Pagliacci the clown, he sings the famous aria, Vesti la giubba. How sad that the clown he is transformed into can not laugh.

Cut to performing on stage with his wife and the downward spiral, as reality merges with acting and canio loses control, demanding to know who Nedda's lover is. Nedda, still in her role as Colombina, swears she will never tell him. By this point, the audience realizes what they are witnessing is no longer a play, but a very real tragedy unfolding right in front of their eyes.

"La commedia รจ finita!", exclaims Pagliacci the clown.

The comedy, sadly, is over.

~ Ling Chan