Friday, January 29, 2010

Her Name Is Carmen

Photo credit: Michael Cooper

Go Rinat Go!

The extraordinarily gifted Rinat Shaham stepped into the role of Carmen at the Canadian Opera Company (after American mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton withdrew due to health reasons) and made an indelible mark on Toronto opera-goers, as written up in The Globe and Mail.

Was there any doubt?! Of course not.

Shaham who played Carmen in VO's production last season wowed and powed both Vancouver audiences and critics. There is a reason that she is known as the world's definitive Carmen.

Congrats from everyone here at VO for a wonderful opening!

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Opera Props: Valencia Opera House

Photo credit: JP Holecka

Today launches our newest feature, Opera Props, in which the VO community share with everybody their thoughts on what's hip, what's hot and what's what.

JP Holecka, Creative Director of Powershift Media and friend of VO, travelled to Spain last year and of course, had to stop off at the Valencia Opera House (Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts)

How could one not?

Resembling "a giant Spartan war helmet", this architectural marvel is on JP's must-see list.

"...Simply amazing and will dazzle and delight all those of any age."

We couldn't agree more!

To hear more about JP's thoughts on the Valencia Opera House, click here.

So if you have opera-related items you'd like to give a thumbs up to, drop me a line at and we'll get you featured!

~ Ling Chan

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We Want You

Who do you go to when you need a yea or a nay on what you're wearing? Who do you turn to when you need to find the perfect restaurant to charm your date? Who do you ask when you can't decide between a Blackberry or iPhone?

Your friends, that's who!

We go to our friends-in-the-know for their picks and recommendations. We turn to our friends for their experience.

Starting tomorrow, VO will introduce a new feature called Opera Props, where any of our friends (that's you! and you! and YOU!) can give shout outs and high fives to:

* opera houses you visited
* opera/classical movies or books you've enjoyed
* opera music you've stumbled upon
* anything opera-related you'd like to share with VO's community of friends

If you've been chomping at the bit to spread your opera knowledge, drop me a line at and we'll get you in the spotlight.

This could very well become a virtual block party. I'll bring the dip!

~ Ling Chan

Monday, January 25, 2010

Button Up

VO has pieces of flair to give away!

We're giving away a set of 3 Nixon in China buttons:

Nixon in China

Vote Mao

Nixon's the One

So how can I get my hands on these awesome buttons, you may be wondering? Simple.

We'll be handing them out on the street (follow @operaninja on Twitter for times and locations)

Buttons will also be available at most VO community engagement events

Or you can get your set by dropping by at the VO office Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm

The city will soon be awashed with Vancouver Opera buttons. Get yours before they're gone.

Wear one at a time or wear them all at once. I guarantee they look good with everything. I'll leave it up to you if you want to decorate your suspenders with them.

~ Ling Chan

Go To The Head Of The Class

Want to know more about Nixon in China?

Well, you're in luck!

Opera America is offering FREE multimedia online learning courses. The courses are four weeks long and cover many aspects of Vancouver Opera's upcoming Nixon in China: the history, music analysis, the people involved, etc.

The course begins Feb 1.

For those of you who are already signed up for VO's E-news, you'll automatically receive an email invitation to join the course. And if you aren't signed up, go here!

Participants receive an email each week letting them know when the newest content is online, then they can go and look at it at their leisure.

Latecomers can join after the Feb 1 start date and still have access to anything they’ve missed.

Here's the course curriculum:

Week 1:
* Overview with introductions by composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman
* A detailed look at what happens in Nixon in China
* Overview of the six principal characters: Richard Nixon, Mao Tse-tung, Henry Kissinger, Pat Nixon, Chou En-lai and Chiang Ch'ing

Week 2:
* In-depth analysis of Act 1
* Introduction to Minimalism in music and Adam's approach to this style

Week 3:
* In-depth analysis of Act 2
* Discussion on how Adam uses orchestration

Week 4:
* In-depth analysis of Act 3
* A look back at how Nixon in China was received when it premiered in 1987

For more information, click here.

So sharpen those pencils and put on your thinking caps - school is about to begin.

~ Ling Chan

Seal Of Approval

This past weekend, The Guardian UK asked David Bowie what was on his iPod playlist. Guess what was one of his song choices?

Soldiers of Heaven hold the Sky from Act 1, Scene 1 of the Nixon in China opera by John Adams.

Asked why this selection was on his playlist, Bowie replied "Adams's minimalism disguises the rich romanticism of his melodies. Ever ascending, rising through the clouds."

The Thin White Duke is liking the Nixon in China! Can we say that's SO cool?!

And it just so happens that Vancouver Opera will be performing Nixon in China in March!

For a preview of Soldiers of Heaven Hold the Sky, click here.

See what the buzz is all about! Call 604-683-0222 to get your tickets now.

~ Ling Chan

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tick Tock Mao

This is tres cool. Our Communications Manager, Selina, is sporting a new accessory around the office. And it happens to go very well with the upcoming Nixon in China opera!

Bought in the back alleys of Shanghai with a lot of haggling by a "fixer" for a non-speaking foreigner, this nifty little "Chairman Mao" wind-up watch not only keeps time, BUT has the added feature of the Chairman's arm waving at you with every passing second!

What a great way to be reminded that we're a mere 7 weeks away from the Nixon in China opening (March 13, 16, 18, 20).

This show is going to be HOT! Vancouver Opera will be performing John Adams' masterpiece in March. Toronto's Canadian Opera Company will be performing Nixon in China February 2011, followed by San Francisco Opera Summer 2012.

Want to get your hands on tickets? Speak to the good people at our box office at 604-683-0222. Before time runs out.

~ Ling Chan

Your First Time

Do you remember your first time? Of course you do. The first time will always be special and something you won't easily forget for the rest of your life. So on this sunny and beautiful day in Vancouver, we ask:

So, how old were you...When you watched your first opera? What was it? And where did you do the deed?

Here's our Facebook friends reminiscing:

Jo Thomas - Barber of Seville. I was 18 and it was at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver.

Sunny Shams - Rigoletto. I was 17 and it was the Pacific Opera Victoria production in the Royal Theater.

James McQuillen - Die Walküre at Dallas Opera. I was 16 and was blown out of my seat.

Diana Maureen Sandberg - Mme. Butterfly, 9yo, San Francisco Opera House. I was horrified by the final scene; can still clearly see the blindfolded little boy sitting placidly, waving a flag, as his mama collapses on the stage. My experience of live theatre was quite limited up to then; it was quite a revelation.

Marc van Bree - Parsifal at the Wiener Staatsoper with Placido Domingo. Had to wait in line for 5 hours to buy the standing room tickets for a couple of Euro, then had to stand another 5 hours for the actual opera. But I loved it.

I think it was the second or third date with the girl that's now my wife. I remember when I told my mother I went to the opera, she asked: "Who's the girl?"

Luis Bernhardt - 1971, War Memorial Opera House, SF. I was a 20-yr-old music student in Oakland, and they let us see the opera for free in exchange for serving as ushers. That night it was the legendary Leontyne Price as Giorgetta in Il Tabarro. I was too much a newbie to really appreciate her performance, darn! The other half of the evening was Carmina Burana done... as a stunning scenic oratorio complete with dancers and a huge chorus costumed in monks' hooded robes. It was the most stunning thing I had ever seen...

I also saw a production of Butterfly in the early 70's, but at the Oakland Auditorium. I think in those days it was standard practice that the child be blindfolded and handed an American flag. I thought this was very relevant and touching, especially in those Viet Nam War days. I wonder why they stopped doing this?

Diana Maureen Sandberg - (responding to Luis Bernhardt)- apparently it was also the custom in 1957

Jarod Smith - Pagliacci/Suor Angelica, COC @ O'Keefe Center - 1990 (i think)

Jennifer Lee - Madama Butterfly. 17 years old. Queen Elizabeth Theatre!

Dan Hanoomansingh - Salome at QE Theatre last year, 15 y/o

Sabrina Martini - La Traviata. 24 yrs @ Vienna State Opera House in balcony seats!

Andre Prevost - Pagliacci. 11 y/o. B/W CBC broadcast with Jon Vickers...I date myself!

Max Ipinza - Aida in BC Place when I was 4 years old

And not to forget our Twitter friends:

@musicbizkid - (a) Turandot (b) 19 (c) UNH's Johnson Theater

@operatuck - Boheme. 9. Vancouver Opera. Still here!!

@operaincinema - La Boheme (only the first act!), six, at Austin Opera!

@jamesrodgersNZ - Simon Boccenegra, 18, New Zealand International Arts Festival. Great production and amazing cast.

@jazz2midnight - Flying Dutchman, Seattle Opera, 17

Thanks again for playing Lunchtime Poll and taking a stroll together down memory lane!

~ Ling Chan

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Want In On The Opera Ninja Army?

Photo credit: Liquid Paper

Want to get ALL the skinny on the behind the scenes shenanigans at VO? Be the first to hear super secret special announcements about our upcoming productions? Get exclusive deals and promos offers?

Then follow @operaninja on Twitter!

~ Ling Chan

Monday, January 18, 2010

You're Invited to VO's Nixon Screening

Wanna come see a movie on us?

In anticipation of our Nixon in China opening on March 13, Vancouver Opera is hosting a series of Nixon in China related events.

You're invited to a screening of Oliver Stone's 1995 film, Nixon, at Vancity Theatre this Sunday, January 24.

The movie stars Anthony Hopkins as Nixon, Joan Allan as Pat Nixon, along with Hollywood heavy hitters such as James Woods, Paul Sorvino, Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, Kevin Costner and Sam Waterston.

Nixon traces the political and personal life of the former US President.

Here are the deets:

12:30pm - Doors open. Pre-screening reception provided by Vancouver Opera Guild.

1:00pm - Introduction of movie by political scientist Dr. Paul Quirk, Phil Lind Chair in U.S. Politics at UBC

4:15pm - Q & A session with Dr. Quirk and Vancouver Opera's Director of Marketing Doug Tuck

Admission is free and tickets are available at the door, but space is limited. Come early to avoid disappointment!

Please note: VIFC Membership ($2) required to attend the screening, which can be purchased at the door. For more information, click here.

~ Ling Chan

So You Think You Can Sing (Opera)?

Photo credit: Ryan McVay / Getty Images

This week I learned about a new celeb-reality show that's going to be airing in the UK. It's called Popstar to Opera Star. The premise is to see if 8 established pop artists can be coached to sing arias and hit those high notes, just like an opera singer. Should be interesting. Anyone have satellite TV that can pick up ITV in England?

This week's lunchtime poll asks: What popstar would you like to see try their hand at singing opera?

From our Twitter camp:

@palmbeachopera - Christina Aguilera

@theatlantaopera - Christina Aguilera for sure. She has such a big voice

@theblkdragon - Christina Aguilera. I agree :)

@ppe324 - I had one friend say Kanye West, another Mariah Carey...interesting coloratura for sure.

@calgaryopera - Beyonce. More hip-hopera please.

@npbradshaw - I'd rather see Kelly Clarkson or Pink

@jordansean - I would love to see Lady Gaga do opera!

And now over to our Facebook friends:

Carson Crandall - Ellen De Generes

Michelle Hempstock - Adam Lambert

Jim Peers - Thom Yorke

Claudio Arato - Ewan McGregor

Caprice Borrowman - Marilyn Manson

Jo Thomas - Steve Perry

Michael Van Lane - Pink

Marlene Johnson - Jann Arden

Alex Mathieson - Celine Dion

Diana Maureen Sandberg - Rod Stewart

Selina Inajar - Meatloaf!

Thanks for the fab suggestions everyone! It's quite the thought to take these artists out of their comfort zone! Get rid of any amplification and mixing of vocals.

Although these singers all have the confidence and experience at performing in front of tens of thousands of fans, I wonder how many of them have the chops to do it unmic'd? With no bells, whistles or crutches, but just themselves on the big ole' stage? The thought alone is enough to give one stage fright!

~ Ling Chan

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jonathan Darlington's New Website

It's official! VO's Music Director Jonathan Darlington's new website is now online!

And if you want to practice your European languages, Jonathan also has a German version of his website.

But wait, there's more...

You can also connect with Jonathan on his blogsite at Posterous.

And now for a personal message from The Maestro -

Jonathan Darlington | Website (engl.) from Christoph Müller-Girod on Vimeo.

Talk about being accessible!

If you happen to be in Duisburg, you can find Jonathan and Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra performing the first concert of the Henze-Project as a part of the programme for the European Capital of Culture 2010.

Additionally, on February 4, Jonathan and Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra will receive the prestigous annual prize from the German Music Publisher's Association for the best concert programme of the current season, 2009/10.

Congratulations Jonathan! What a way to kick off the new year!

~ Ling Chan

Operamania 101: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Who here likes The Amazing Race? I don't know about you, but I used to watch that show religiously.

In the 10th leg of last season's The Amazing Race (installment #15), you would've seen the final four teams (including a pair of Harlem Globetrotters) come to a roadblock at the Estates Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic. It was here that one member of each team had to search the whole of the historic theatre for a teeny tiny mandolin.

And while the teams were searching furiously for the miniature instrument, there was an opera singer onstage singing the role of Don Giovanni. It was, after all, at the Estates Theatre that Mozart premiered Don Giovanni in 1787.

Once the mandolin was located, the teams would then bring it to the opera singer who would then hand them the next clue to the route marker.

Fast forward to 3:00 for the start of the treasure hunt

Press play for the continued shenanigans

So who is Don Giovanni?

Don Giovanni is an opera about a heartless cad who life revolves around wine and amorous conquests. He views Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and Zerlina as sport, seducing and manipulating them. The wronged women all want to seek vengeance on Don Giovanni. In the end, Don Giovanni's comeuppance comes in supernatural form, dragging him to an eternity of hellfire. The closing line of the opera?

"Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life" (Questo è il fin)

This was not the first time opera was featured in this around the world race for a million dollars.

In season 14, teams made their way to a pit stop at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre, which is the largest theatre in Russia. (even larger than the Bolshoi Theatre) As it was just a pit stop, no tasks were required but to just be the first team to arrive there.

However, later in the race, on the 10th leg, teams were faced with choosing a detour in Beijing, China. Unlike a roadblock where only one member of the team would carry out tasks, a detour is a choice between tasks that the team would decide to perform.

In this leg's detour, the teams had to choose between Chinese Waiter or Beijing Opera. Chinese Waiter had the teams go to a designated Chinese restaurant and take down four customer orders (spoken in Mandarin) and pronounce it correctly back to the chef. (in Mandarin, of course)

If the team chose Beijing Opera, they would go to Hguang Huiguan Opera House and apply Chinese opera make-up on each other, to go with the traditional costumes. But it had to look identical to the 2 opera singers in front of them them. Only after the make-up pass muster with the opera master were they able to get their next clue.

Fast forward to 9:20 for the detour challenge

Fast forward to 2:50 to see how the teams fared

If you produce a show about a race around the globe, you're bound to feature opera sometime; be it landmarks, costumes or singing. That's because one can find opera in almost every big city in the world. Opera is truly international.

And because there wasn't any Chinese opera singing featured in The Amazing Race (darn it!), I shall leave you Operamaniacs with Il mio tesoro, the Don Giovanni aria which greeted the teams in Novosibirsk.

See you at the next route marker.

~ Ling Chan

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chemistry At VO

How much fun is it to be in Caroline Hay's shoes? VO's Special Event Coordinator gets to plan all our fab fundraising events. She's done everything from wrangling up Salvatore Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli purses for the PURSEsuasion auction and luncheon, to working with the top bakeries in Vancouver to come up with custom cakes for our Golden Anniversary Gala.

Most of the time, the magic is unveiled for us at the events. But not this time.

For the upcoming Passion & Potions event at Lumiere on January 25, Caroline and the Director of Production, Terry Harper, got up to all kinds of alchemistic shenanigans.

The VO staff room was converted to a chemistry lab on Tuesday afternoon, which piqued the interest of some of the science geeks working at the opera (myself included). Although there weren't any bunsen burners, test tubes or erlenmeyer flasks, there were dry ice, food colouring and tongs involved.

Did I mention a cauldron, as well?

Caroline was on a mission to conjure up some magic potions for the upcoming event and make sure the glass containing these "potions" wouldn't shatter. Safety first, people.

A 45L cauldron was filled up with warm water. Terry then carefully dropped a 10lb block of dry ice into the cauldron. The result was a really awesome fog that lasted for a couple of hours. I think it's fair to say that some of us stood around, entranced.

Small pellets of dry ice were dropped into the beakers and apothecary jars. The effect was fun even if the fog lasted only 5 minutes.

oops on the angle

This little science experiment proved successful because, not only did it work, but we didn't blow up our staff room in the process. We're all ready to rock Passion and Potions.

Vancouver Opera...not just a place for music.

~ Ling Chan