Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where's Nixon?

Locate Nixon as he makes his appearance at various sites around Vancouver this week and win a Nixon in China grand prize pack!

How it works:

1. VO will tweet out a location and code word each day
2. Participants must go to the location, find Nixon and tell him the code word.
3. Nixon will give the participants a reply code word, which needs to get tweeted back to VO on Twitter. You can also EMAIL us the code word on Facebook.
4. Participant names will be collected and entered into the grand prize draw.

The Grand Prize includes: 2 tickets to Nixon in China for Tuesday, March 16, $150 gift certificate to Chambar Restaurant, Nixon in China memorabilia, VO t-shirt and flashdrive.

Let the stalking begin.

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chinatown History Hunters

We've reached into our magic hat and randomly pulled ourselves a winner for the Chinatown History Hunt.

*drum roll please!*

Congratulations Deborah Ong! You've won 2 tickets to Nixon in China, $150 gift certificate to Floata Seafood Restaurant and admission for 2 to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens.

Here are the answers to the clues:

Clue #1: It’s the skinniest building in the world – and the place to go if you need a marriage license.

Sam Kee Building

The Sam Kee Company bought the land as a standard sized lot in 1903. In 1912, the city widened Pender Street and expropriated 24 feet of the lot.

The building was designed by architects Brown and Gillam in 1913. It is 4’11” wide at its ground-floor base and only 6’ wide at the second-story bay windows. There is a basement that extends under the sidewalk, which originally housed public baths, while the ground floor was used for office and shops, and the top story for living quarters.

The rehabilitation of the building was designed by Soren Rasmussen Architect and completed in 1986 for Jack Chow Insurance.

The Guinness Book of Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! have both declared it the thinnest commercial building in the world. Recently, though, this status has been challenged by the Skinny Building in Pittsburgh, which is 5’2” wide on all floors.

Clue #2: It’s the first full-size Chinese garden built outside of China and is named in honour of the first president of China.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden consists of a public park (free) and a garden(entrance by admission). It was built between 1985 and 1986, with the park designed by Joe Wai and Donald Vaughan, and the garden by Wang Zu-Xin, with the guidance of experts from the Landscape Architecture Company of Suzhou, China. The garden opened on April 24, 1986, in time for Expo 86.

The mandate of the garden is to “maintain and enhance the bridge of understanding between Chinese and western cultures, promote Chinese culture generally and be an integral part of the local community.

The garden in named in honour of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the father of modern China, who had a strong connection to Vancouver. Dr. Sun stayed in Vancouver on several occasions while traveling the world to raise awareness and funding for the Chinese nationalist movement. The large presence of Chinese nationalists in BC helped finance the Chinese nationalist revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911, after which Dr. Sun Yat Sen became the first president of China.

Clue #3: The 3 ½ storey neon rice bowl may be gone, you can still get some mean sticky rice with chicken here!

Foo’s Ho Ho Restaurant/Sun Ah Hotel

This building was constructed in 1911. The Ho Ho Restaurant opened in 1954, in the ground floor of the Sun Ah Hotel, where working-class Chinese men lodged.

The famous Ho Ho’s neon sign was a Vancouver landmark: a 3 ½ storey high bowl of rice, complete with chopsticks and rising steam. Sadly, the sign deteriorated over the years and repair costs were beyond the owner’s means and it was removed in 1997, a few years after the Ho Ho had closed.

In 1998, Foo’s, another nearby landmark restaurant relocated to the old Ho Ho’s location. The new restaurant was renamed Foo’s Ho Ho and continues to serve traditional Chinese village fare. Many groups hold monthly and annual meetings there, including the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia.

Clue #4: This "Assocation" is so "Benevolent" it needs two locations! (But you only have to find one for the History Hunt).

The Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver

The Chinese Benevolent Association was founded in 1895 as an organization to provide support and leadership within the growing Chinese Canadian community. Since then the CBA has worked to promote equality for Chinese Canadians, as well as reaching out to other community groups.

In 1913, the CBA distributed food to unemployed Chinese Canadians, and in 1924 lobbied for a review of Canada’s immigration laws. In 1947, it launched an appeal to grant Chinese Canadians the right to vote, and between 1947 and 1967 solicited amendments to Canadian immigration laws to facilitate the reunification of Chinese Canadian families.

Since then, the CBA has worked to provide low cost housing, and implemented fund raising campaigns to assist victims of natural disasters in Canada and China. The CBA is also the organizer of the Chinese New Year Parade.

In 2006, CBA was inducted into the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Business Hall of Fame-a first for an ethnic community association.

Clue #5: Visit this "Centre"’s museum & archives to get some "Culture"!

Chinese Cultural Centre

In 1972 at a Wong’s Benevolent Association banquet, representatives of the three levels of government pledged to support the proposal of a community centre in Chinatown. The Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver was founded the following year, and a dedicated complex of buildings, spanning a full city block, was completed in 1980. A branch office was opened in Richmond in 1991.

Some of our contestants were kind enough to let us put up their pictures, they had so much fun with our hunt.



They may have been a wee-bit camera shy, but these hunters were happy for us to put up their pics!

Mini Bree

LJ and Johnny the Bear

Thanks to everyone who had participated in our Chinatown History Hunt!

~ Ling Chan & Selina Rajani

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nixon in China: The Manga

To whet your appetite for the upcoming Nixon in China, feast your peepers on the Nixon in China manga, illustrated by Jerry Cai and edited by Roy Husada.

To see this supersized, click here.

~ Ling Chan

Someone To Watch Over Me

Before the curtain even goes up on Nixon in China, audience members will get an eyeful. On the scrim at the front of the house will be hundreds and hundreds of Red Army faces staring right back at them.

This past weekend, a photoshoot took place at our wardrobe department. Nixon in China's Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis snapped headshots of 14 of our costumed supernumeraries, who will become the faces on our custom scrim.

Their faces will then be multiplied electronically so that they cover the entire width and breadth of the scrim.

Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis shooting super Brett Macdonald
Photo courtesy of Terry Harper

The effect is sure to have people talking!

Does it come in a wallpaper too?

~ Ling Chan

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mangaka Meng

Check out this radness!

Unstage is a daily blog dedicated to showing off the talents of artists, graphic designers, illustrators, film-makers, photographers, interior designers, architects and web designers.

And who has been featured today but none other than artist Fiona Meng, who has been illustrating our VO manga for the past few seasons!

Here's what Upstage writes:

Fiona Meng is a Chinese Canadian manga artist/illustrator. She is currently studying in Academy of Art University Graduate Illustration program in San Francisco. She became heavily influenced by Japanese manga since her childhood.

In 2004, she immigrated to Canada and attended Emily Carr University, majoring in Animation. For her senior project, she created a 2D animated film based on an old Chinese story. While studying in Emily Carr, Fiona worked on a weekly project for Vancouver Opera, which is creating three seasons of 6-page mangas to promote their upcoming shows.

Congrats to Fiona for being profiled with the best of the best!

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Veda Hille Trio at Performance Works

Looking to take in some music during the Olympics?

Here's your chance to check out one of Canada's most adventurous musicians!

Veda Hille, who composed and wrote our Jack Pine opera, will be taking the stage with Peggy Lee (cello) and Skye Brooks (drums) for a FREE concert on Saturday February 20 at Performance Works on Granville Island.

Come out and cheer on our hometown gal!

~ Ling Chan

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Keen Sense Of Hearing

Now that is some supersonic hearing!

VO's Ticket Centre Manager, Tracey Flattes, was able to spot John Adams' The People are the Heroes in, of all places, the Civilization IV computer game.

The 2005 strategy computer game begins in 4000 BC and has its players build empires, conquer other civilizations, forward their society through scientific and cultural progress, to finally landing a ship in a future star system in the year 2050 AD. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

As the game takes place over 6000 years, music included in the soundtrack include medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, minimalist, world and folk music. Some of the game's music are original scores, while others are variants of famous pieces. Featured composers include Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, Mozart and American minimalist composer John Adams!

Not only can you hear The People Are The Heroes Now as the background music in the Modern Age part of the game, you can also hear John Adams' Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, The Chairman Dances, Two Fanfares and Violin Concerto.

Gamers and opera. Who would've thought that this is yet another coupling that goes together well!

Thanks Tracey for the find!

~ Ling Chan

Now On Tour

Our General Director James Wright has been making the rounds. Since last November, he's been booked solid with speaking engagements, enthusiastically spreading the word about our upcoming Nixon in China. Jim has already spoken to the Burnaby Deer Lake Rotary, Green Culture Club, Sunrise Rotary, Zonta International Book Club and Quadra Rotary Club.

Just last week, Jim presented Nixon in China to the Chinatown Lions Club at Floata Restaurant. I had the opportunity to accompany Jim as he spoke about the music and visuals, and gave a brief history of how John Adams' Nixon in China came to be.

Jim takes the podium

Chinatown Lions Club member Chuck Lew with Barbara Lowy

Chuck Lew, Beverly Nann and Jim

Speaking to the 28 members that night was great, but even better was being served (surprise!) a 10-course dinner before Jim took the podium.

A great way to get out into the community and educate people on this modern operatic masterpiece, Jim's speaking engagements also provide opportunities for questions and conversation.

Jim will wrap up his successful "whirlwind tour" in the next few weeks with visits to UBC and the University Womens Club.

~ Ling Chan

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snowboard Auction Starts Today!

Vancouver Opera's online auction of custom Prior snowboards, featuring award-winning illustrations by world-renowned artist Edel Rodriguez begins today! Each one of a kind autographed snowboard is listed individually. Bid on one or bid on all!

You can find our snowboard auctions on Ebay for Charity here:


Nixon in China

The Marriage of Figaro

Madama Butterfly

Proceeds will benefit the Young Artist Coaching Intensive program (YACIN) at Vancouver Opera, a program designed to bring the hottest young opera singers together for a week of intense vocal coaching.

About the artist:

Edel Rodriguez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1971. He majored in painting at Pratt Institute (BFA) and Hunter College (MFA). His work has appeared in five picture books, on stamps for the US Postal Service and on posters for films and Broadway shows. He is a regular contributor to New Yorker magazine and was an art director at TIME Magazine for over a decade. He has won numerous awards for his illustrations.

With only four in the world, these snowboards will certainly appeal to both the snowboarder set and the art collectors. So ride the boards or hang 'em up; that, we'll leave up to you!

~ Ling Chan

Bringing Home the Magic Part II

Our Director of Production, Terry Harper, is back from his travels! Ever the trooper, Terry endured winter snowstorms, flight delays and rescheduling to bring us back more snapshots of our Nixon in China set.

Aerial shot of a hanging backdrop and trim for legs

Rolling tower in front of a backdrop

Forbidden City & White House backdrop

Forbidden City & White House backdrop

Set designer Erhard Rom talking to Richard Blankenship

Aerial view of tower, backdrop and red steps used in the ballet scene

Airplane front wheels

Backdrop of the American and Chinese flags

This is better than getting souvenir t-shirts!

~ Ling Chan

Olympic Fever: Opera Style

Did you catch soprano Measha Brueggergosman singing the Olympic hymn during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Games this past Friday? Can we say FIERCE?!

The New Brunswick native sang the choral cantata by Greek composer Spyridon Samaras and poet Kostis Palamas (no lip synching y'all) and the world watched. Even better, Brueggergosman sang the anthem in English and French to reflect our country's bilingualism.

This is certainly not the first time opera has made such an impression on the Olympics games.

During the closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain, soprano Sarah Brightman and tenor Jose Carreras sang Amigos Para Siempre (Friends for Life), composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan saw conductor Seiji Ozawa conduct Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Ode to Joy with choruses from five different continents and a Japanese chorus of 2000. Okay, technically it's not opera, but c'mon it's the classical classic, Ode to Joy.

In 2004 at the Olympic games in Athens, Greece, Russian tenor Michael Kleitman made his live-stage world premiere.

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turino, Italy, Luciano Pavarotti took the stage for the last time, singing Nessun Dorma to thundering applause and a standing ovation.

At the end of closing ceremonies of the Turino games, BC born and internationally renowned tenor Ben Heppner sang the Canadian national anthem, a cappella style, to herald the start of the countdown to the Vancouver Olympic Games.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, cross-over superstar soprano Sarah Brightman shared the stage with Chinese singer Liu Huan to sing You and Me in Mandarin and English.

Looks like the Olympics and opera go hand in hand; both capturing people's attention worldwide.

~ Ling Chan

Friday, February 12, 2010

Orth Got Pinned

When Stephen Llewellyn of Portland Opera, aka Operaman, read that we had Nixon in China buttons to give away, he got on the horn and enthusiastically requested 2 sets. One set for him, of course, and the other set to give to baritone Robert Orth, who was performing as Don Alfonso in Cosi Fan Tutte at Portland Opera.

And how serendipitous that Robert Orth would then be coming up to Vancouver to join us as President Nixon!

Robert was such a sport. Not only did he wear our trio of buttons but he also dug up his original 1968 "Nixon's the One" campaign button to show us!

Robert Orth looking sharp in VO's buttons

Photos courtesy of Stephen Llewellyn

Thanks Stephen and Robert for showing us some love!

Have you got your buttons yet? You can pick up your limited edition Nixon in China buttons at Book Warehouse, at our Nixon in China Community Engagement Events and at the VO office.

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting Yours Before They're Gone

Hear ye! Hear ye!

VO is pleased to announce that we have hit 50% of our single ticket goal for Nixon in China as of Wednesday!

Don't miss out on what will be the most talked about opera this season! Call our box office for tickets at 604-683-0222 to get yours!

~ Ling Chan

Maestro Darlington Takes Top Prize

Photo credit: Christoph Müller-Girod

Congratulations Maestro!

On February 4 at the Mercator Concert Hall in Duisburg, Germany, VO's Maestro Jonathan Darlington, the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and Managing Director Dr. Alfred Wendel were presented with the prestigious prize for the best 2009/2010 concert programme from the DMV (German Music Publisher's Association).

The orchestra’s “stylistic and artistic diverse concert programme, as well as its commitment to contemporary music and its courage to take the audience on a journey of discovery by including less know orchestral pieces” were the main reasons for awarding the prize to the orchestra.

Click here to read more.

~ Ling Chan

A Hunting We Will Go

Vancouver is positively crackling right now! A little something called the Olympics and Chinese New Year will take place this weekend. So to help accommodate all our hunters during this crazy time, the Chinatown History Hunt contest will be extended until noon Monday, February 15.

Also, we have decided to bend the rules a little for those camera-shy hunters. You can participate in the contest and instead of taking a picture of yourself in front of the landmark as stated in the previous rules, come up with a creative way to show us that you were actually there.

Wear a mask, put your back to the camera, bring along a garden gnome and put it in every shot - it's up to you. Just show us that you went to each location and aren't just submitting Googled images of the historic sites.

So now you can enjoy the Olympic festivities, Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatown AND try for our super-fabulous Nixon in China prize package!

恭喜發財 or Gung Hay Fat Choy!

~ Ling Chan

The Maestro Goes Vroom

When our illustrious Music Director is not conducting on the Vancouver Opera podium, keeping our audience enraptured, he can be found in Germany making magic with the Duisburg Philharmonic.

An added perk of being "der Maestro" when he is in residence in Germany is that Maestro Darlington gets to kick it in a Porsche 911 coupé. The use of the luxury sportscar is generously sponsored by Sports Car Centre Moers.

Goes to show that the unmistakable sound of a Porsche engine goes well with classical and operatic music.

~ Ling Chan

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bringing Home The Magic

VO's Director of Production, Terry Harper, is an International Man of Mystery this weekend. Terry will be jet-setting to Philadelphia on Sunday to watch the set load-in of Tea, which Vancouver Opera will be producing in 2013. (we're letting the cat out of the bag on that one!)

From there, Terry, who had worked for years with magician David Copperfield on his shows before coming to VO, will fly to Richmond, Virginia. He'll then head over to the Blankenship Company where our Nixon in China set is being built. He will spend a couple of days there to confirm that construction is going smoothly, schedules are being met, answer any questions the crew might have and to "make sure I'm all jiggy with it."

The Nixon in China set will be packed into one 52 foot tractor trailer on March 1. It'll then make its way across the country and arrive in Vancouver on March 6.

Here's a sneak peek at what we're working on.

Nixon in China backdrop

One of the six 21 ft columns of "The Big 6" (Kissinger, Pat Nixon, Richard Nixon, Chairman Mao, Madame Mao, Chou En-lai)

Hand-painted dragon statue

Hand-painted wood statues

Nose of the plane

Plane engine with wooded slats

Very exciting! More pictures to come. Stay tuned!

~ Ling Chan

Friday, February 5, 2010

Music To Soothe The Savage Beast

If you ride the bus to and from work during rush hour, you can't miss the profusion of riders listening to their iPods or mp3 players. Often, as I sit facing the row across from me and see 4 riders sitting side by side, listening to their ipods, I can't help but imagine what they must be listening to. Are they listening to metal first thing in the morning? Some electronica to go with their coffee buzz? Or some easy-going "dentist chair" music to stop themselves from going crazy on a jammed packed bus?

I, myself, recently added 40 of the world's best opera arias onto my iPod to go with to what I normally listen to. An experiment to see if it'd help bring the "aggro" down while being crammed like sardines on public transportation, with its jerky stop and go motions and heat blasting to unbearable temperatures.

You know what? It's working for me. Listening to the sounds an orchestra makes or a chorus singing in unison makes for a less frustrated me when I roll into work.

So whenever an opera aria comes on (my iPod is on shuffle), I'd imagine that everyone around me is plugged into the same operatic track. I also picture them dressed to the nines in ballgowns and tuxedos.

It's what helps me pass the time on the bus.

Inspired by my daily commute to and from work, today's lunchtime poll asks: What was the last opera aria / classic music piece you listened to?

From our Twitter friends:

@davidscoville - Ceasar in Egypt "La giustizia ha gia sull'arco" - Handel

@trishussey - looks like Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 by J.S. Bach played by Yo-Yo Ma

@kattlea - Le Cri de merlin - R. Murray Schafer - the last piece of classical music I listened to. It's brilliant!

@dannyweis - Swan Lake

From our Facebook friends:

Sean Veley - Bartok's String Quartet No. 1, played live by the Tokyo String Quartet (all on Stradivarious instruments) in Sechelt, BC this past Sunday. Awesome!

Chen Li - Lilium by Kumiko Noma.... incredible piece.

And for those curious, the last opera track I listened to this morning was Rusulka, Op.114 B. 203 Act 1: "Song to the Moon" by Dvorak

~ Ling Chan

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chinatown History Hunt: Clues Galore!

Time to put on your thinking caps! The clues to the Chinatown History Hunt are here!

Using the clues below, figure out the landmarks, go there, get all snap-happy with your camera and send your pictures to

You'll then be entered to win an awesome opera package including: 2 tickets to Nixon in China, $150 gift certificate to Floata Seafood Restaurant and admission for 2 to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Gardens. Doesn't that make you want to get up and go to Chinatown right now?

Here are the super-fantastic clues:

Clue #1: It’s the skinniest building in the world – and the place to go if you need a marriage license.

Clue #2: It’s the first full-size Chinese garden built outside of China and is named in honour of the first president of China.

Clue #3: The 3 ½ storey neon rice bowl may be gone, you can still get some mean sticky rice with chicken here!

Clue #4: This "Assocation" is so "Benevolent" it needs two locations! (But you only have to find one for the History Hunt).

Clue #5: Visit this "Centre"’s museum & archives to get some "Culture"!

Contest ends Friday, February 12!

So make a day of it. Double, triple, quadruple your chances of winning by bringing your pals out with you to participate in our History Hunt. Just make sure that you each submit your own set of photos with you in it.

Then everyone, go have a spot of dim sum!

~ Ling Chan