Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cast Corner - John Conlon (Baritone)

As the holiday's draw nearer we're trying to make sure you get an introduction to at least half or our talented cast for January's upcoming concert production of Die Fledermaus!

For our 6th Edition, we'd like to introduce Baritone, John Conlon who will be joining the VanCOCO stage as Gabriel von Eisenstein, the character around which the entire story revolves!

John has already graced many of Canada's professional houses, and we are delighted to have him joining us for this production. Originally from Parry Sound, Ontario, John holds a Master of Opera degree from the University of British Columbia and made his professional debut, as Danilo with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

We had a chance to catch up with John and find out a little more about him. We hope you will enjoy these little tidbits...

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your first experience with Opera?

A. My first experience was playing Ahmal in "Ahmal and the night Visitors" in 1990. It seemed easier then. I was lucky my next opera experience was in the same show as one of the kings 10 years later.

Q. Is there any 'dream role" you'd like to play?

A. MacBeth in Verdi's Macbeth. I have always liked the Shakespeare play and saw it in Stratford Ontario twice when I was in high school and loved it. As a chorus member at Vancouver Opera I was able to be in their production and it was a wonderful experience. Verdi took some liberties with the story but still a great opera.

Q. Could you imagine yourself doing something else besides singing?

A. I really like the building industry especially the home building industry. When I was in opera school I worked for a contractor based lumber yard and I have a lot of background in the industry as well. I could see my self running a lumber yard or even being a home inspector.

Q. Has there been a crossroads in your journey to date? What keeps you going when times get tough?

A: This question is easy. There have been times when it would of been easy to call it quits. What keeps me going is the support from my wife. She has always been the one to push me on to keep going.

We all know that as an artist times get tough, and it is important to have a strong support system. We're pleased that John has a cheerleader in his back pocket, and we're sure you will be one too! We hope you take this opportunity to hear why John keeps forging ahead!

For more information on John, you can visit his website or visit our Artist Page for his full bio! Don't forget... tickets are on sale now and can be purchased securely from our website.

IN BRIEF: Vancouver Concert Opera Society presents Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver (834 Seymour St.) on Jan 4 & 5, 2013 at 7:00pm and at First United Church in White Rock (15385 Semiahmoo Ave) on Jan 6 @ 7:00pm. “Concert Opera” sung in German with English dialogue. Tickets starting at $24 can be purchased online at CASH ONLY at the door.                                    

Cast Corner - Jessica Wright (Soprano)

Soprano Jessica Wright joins the cast of Die Fledermaus as Yvan (Orlofsky's Valet), the second of two pant rolls in this saucy little operetta. When we heard Jessica in our September auditions, she charmed the pants off us (pun intended!) and so much so, that we had to find place for her on our stage!

Jessica Wright (Far Left)
in The Mikado
Interestingly enough, Jessica is currently finishing a degree in psychology, so if anyone can understand the concept of dual personalities, it certainly would be her! In addition to her studies, Jessica has spent the last five years singing with various companies in the lower mainland including Dragon Diva Operatic Theatre, Opera Appassionata, and UBC's Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

Discovering that her music journey began as a jazz vocalist we were really interested on how she began her transition into classical music...

Q: How did you get started with opera?

A: I had been a jazz vocalist, making the rounds at cafes and restaurants in and around Vancouver. Then about five years ago, I took the plunge and auditioned for The Pirates of Penzance with DragonDiva Operatic Theatre. Pirates has always held a special place in my heart and I took it as a sign. I haven’t looked back since.

Q: What might you say to someone who has never been to an opera before to get them excited about this particular show?

A: When many people think of opera, they often think of grand Wagnerian productions in huge theatres. With VanCOCO, the audience has the opportunity to experience opera in a much more intimate setting. Add to that the gorgeous music of Strauss as well as an English script, and well, what’s not to get excited about?

Q: When you are not immersed in opera, what is your favorite past time?

An annoyed looking Jessica (Centre)
in DragonDiva's HMS Pinafore
A: I love reading, watching films and cycling, but most of all I adore spending time with my two wonderful children. They teach me so much!

Q: Tell us about your first experience with Opera.

A: My father is a big fan of classical music and opera. One of my earliest childhood memories is making up dances to the operas of Bizet, Offenbach and Verdi.

Q: Could you imagine yourself doing something else besides singing?

A: Currently I am working on my degree in order to become a psychologist. But I will be a singing psychologist! Most singers will tell you that singing is a part of their soul. I’ll never give it up!

Will Jessica be too big for these "britches"? We think not, but we know that she will breath new life into Yvan the Valet!

For more information about Jessica please visit our Artist Page for her full bio! Don't forget... tickets are on sale now and can be purchased securely from our website.

IN BRIEF: Vancouver Concert Opera Society presents Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver (834 Seymour St.) on Jan 4 & 5, 2013 at 7:00pm and at First United Church in White Rock (15385 Semiahmoo Ave) on Jan 6 @ 7:00pm. “Concert Opera” sung in German with English dialogue. Tickets starting at $24 can be purchased online at CASH ONLY at the door.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cast Corner - Linda Baird (Mezzo)

"Imagine that you were living in Europe 250 years ago? What did people do for entertainment? Go to a movie? Turn on the radio? Play a video game?  Not then. You might have read a book (if you could read), played an instrument (if you were lucky enough to have one), or listened to another perform (if you had a talented friend). Life was quite a silent existence.  To hear a group of instruments or voices together would truly have sounded like heaven. Going to plays were a favourite pastime, but live music could not be played at the same time as the actors spoke. There were no microphones. Their voices would be drowned in the musical drama, but it is the music that creates the real drama. Imagine Star Wars without the music. To bring acting and music together, voices were needed that were powerful enough to project above an entire orchestra of instruments. Ah yes, there is actually a reason why opera singers sing so loudly! Opera was the only medium of the day that brought together instruments, singing, dancing, drama, artistic sets, costumes, poetry, and so much more."

This is what Mezzo Soprano Linda Baird had to say when asked the question "What might you say to someone who has never been to an opera before to get them excited about this particular show?" 

Linda, originally from North Vancouver, but who has recently relocated to Seattle, WA with her husband, is also a music educator, which is not suprizing given her thought provoking answer above. She will be joining the cast of Fledermaus as the Russian Prince "Orlofsky". Here are a few more tidbits that will help you get to know Linda a little better!

Q: When you are not immersed in opera, what is your favorite past time?

A: I love to socialize, especially with family and good friends, but really,... I’ll talk to almost anybody.

Q: What is the most bizarre thing you've done or seen on stage?

A: In 2006, I sang in Vancouver Opera’s production of Faust. During the carnival scene, the staging director assigned me to kiss with Stephen Bell for me most of that scene. Everyone around us was singing and dancing, but Stephen and I were against a wall pretending to make out for about 15 minutes every night.

Vancouver Opera
Pirates of Penzance (2012)
Adam Kozak & Linda Baird
Q: What will a successful opera career look like for you?

A: In opera, it’s easy to measure success by naming roles we’ve sung, venues we’ve sung in, conductor’s we’ve worked with, but for me that has not been what drives me. My view of success in opera is in how I sound and express myself. If I can bring a stranger to tears or laughter or any other emotion, then I know that they are feeling what I feel and what the composer feels. I sing because it feels so good and I love it when I can share that. That is success to me.

We're really looking forward to seeing and hearing Linda bring Prince Orlofsky to life! After seeing her quirky portrayal of this character in her audition, we're certain you will walk away smiling and thinking "Chacun à son goût!". To read more about Linda and to get your tickets to this event, visit our website!

IN BRIEF: Vancouver Concert Opera Society presents Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver (834 Seymour St.) on Jan 4 & 5, 2013 at 7:00pm and at First United Church in White Rock (15385 Semiahmoo Ave) on Jan 6 @ 7:00pm. “Concert Opera” sung in German with English dialogue. Tickets starting at $24 can be purchased online at CASH ONLY at the door.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cast Corner - Robin Eder-Warren (Soprano)

For our 4th edition of this season's Cast Corner we are pleased to introduce Soprano, Robin Eder-Warren. Quite possibly our youngest cast member to date, we've had the pleasure of watching Robin develop over the years and were pleased to be able to offer her the role of Ida for this production of Die Fledermaus.

Similar to Soprano, Stephanie Domingues (Adele), Robin began her training at a very young age and her motives for getting started can only be described as "adorable"!

Q: How did you get started with opera? 

A: I fell onto the operatic stage almost by accident, it seems. I started taking voice lessons at age 10 to follow a boy I had a crush on from school into a musical theatre summer camp, and when it was over, made the fateful decision to keep up the lessons. I never stopped. Four years later, it felt like I looked around and discovered that I had begun singing in operas. I never looked back!

Q: What excites you most about this show? 

A: I finally get to spend time with some of my favourite music! My whole family is Austrian; these are tunes I’ve been humming and dancing to in one form or another since I was very small. There’s something like coming home to music like this, for me.

Q: What is the most bizarre thing you've done or seen on stage? 

A: I had to do trapeze work onstage once in the Bahamas after having had only one crash-course in the apparatus. Good thing I was only about nine or ten, and the audience expected my failure to be adorable and applauded loudly anyway.

While our show won't have any trapeze work in this production, we may try to convince our nimble and ambitious little Ida, who is now a Certified Yoga Instructor and has started her own opera company (Opera Mariposa), to see if she can incorporate downward facing dog into her performance!

Don't forget... tickets are limited and ON SALE NOW on our website where you can also read more about Robin!

IN BRIEF: Vancouver Concert Opera Society presents Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver (834 Seymour St.) on Jan 4 & 5, 2013 at 7:00pm and at First United Church in White Rock (15385 Semiahmoo Ave) on Jan 6 @ 7:00pm. “Concert Opera” sung in German with English dialogue. Tickets starting at $24 can be purchased online at CASH ONLY at the door.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cast Corner - Mark Pepe (Tenor)

Our third installment of Cast Corner features, Tenor Mark Pepe. While Mark bears no direct relationship to the famous French Skunk "Pepé Le Pew", his self-proclaimed mastery of Italian cuisine and "delicious" Bolognese Sauce reminded us of this legendary cartoon character!

Joking aside, Mark will be joining the cast of Die Fledermaus this January as Dr. Blind (The Lawyer). Apparently drawn to "sleazy roles", this should be as fun for Mark as it will be for us to see him bring Dr. Blind to life!

Here's a few little fun Q & A's from Mark...

Q. Is there any 'dream role" you'd like to play?

A. Fellow singers always look at me funny when I say this, but Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro. He’s such a sleazebag, and his music is fun to sing. But I do hope one day I can get to a level to sing Cavaradossi in Tosca or Otello.

Q. What might you say to someone who has never been to an opera before to get them excited about this particular show?

A. You’ll know the music! Remember when Tom and Jerry fought to conduct it once?

Q. What is your most embarrassing moment on stage?

A. Back in high school, I was Merryman the Butler in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. As the curtain rose to begin the second act, I was on stage alone pruning a bush. I bent over, with my back facing the audience, and split my pants. It was a long…slow…rip. I then slowly turned and began to prune the bush from the other side.

We're pretty sure you won't see any "pant-splitting" in this show, but you may split a side or two! Mark will be appearing in all 3 of our performances this coming January, so no matter which date you choose, you'll be privy to his antics and beautiful tenor!

Don't forget tickets are limited and ON SALE NOW on our website where you can also read more about Mark!

IN BRIEF: Vancouver Concert Opera Society presents Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver (834 Seymour St.) on Jan 4 & 5, 2013 at 7:00pm and at First United Church in White Rock (15385 Semiahmoo Ave) on Jan 6 @ 7:00pm. “Concert Opera” sung in German with English dialogue. Tickets starting at $24 can be purchased online at CASH ONLY at the door.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cast Corner (International) - Joel Cummings (Tenor)

For our second installment of Cast Corner we are happy to introduce one of our two Alfreds. One of a handful of our "International Guests", Seattle based Tenor, Joel Cummings will be joining us for the first time on the VanCOCO stage!

A graduate of the North England Conservatory (Masters of Music), Joel already has a plethora of credits to his name including Giuseppe (La Traviata), Fernando (Cosi fan tutte), and Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) just to name a few.

Joel with his beautiful bride Jaci.
In speaking with Joel we were pleased to discover that he is a true singing actor and is digging deep to bring to an honest and realistic character to the stage.

We always want to know what makes an opera singer tick and so we are always interested in the answer to this question...

Q: How did you get started with opera?

A: During my freshman year at Pacific Lutheran University, I attended the Opera Workshop performance of Die Fledermaus. The Rosalinda was Angela Meade, who made her Metropolitan Opera debut a couple years ago and is now an international star. She was good back then too. I was so blown away, and after talking with my teacher, I decided I was "all in", and the rest is history.

Q: We all have a guilty pleasure when it comes to our listening tastes, what do you enjoy listening to that we might find surprising? 

A: Renee Fleming singing Over the Rainbow.

Q: What excites you most about this show?

A: The play between the characters, specifically in the Jail Scene at the end. I just love ad-libbing on stage and playing with my stage colleagues, and this show calls for that quite a bit. 

Last question Joel... (for now anyway)

Q: Who are your musical mentors (Teachers, coaches, etc) and what is it about them that inspires you?

A: My current teacher is Erich Parce, who had a great career internationally as a baritone, most notably at The Metropolitan Opera. He has turned to directing now, and I love how obsessed he is with honesty as a singer. Sometimes we can get caught up in the act of singing and think we're fooling our audience with big, loud notes, but in reality when we are honest and truly feel the music and the character, that's when we get the best response.

Joel is "happy and excited" to be bringing to life the the wit and charm of "Alfred the Opera Singing Tenor" and we can't wait to get to know him through the rehearsal process and to share his beautiful tenor voice with our audience. We're confident our audience will leave this show humming a tune or two and thinking to themselves... Wow! Those characters were alive and vibrant!

Don't miss your chance to hear Joel make his VanCOCO debut! He will be performing the role of Alfred on Friday, January 4th (in Vancouver) and on Sunday, January 6th (in White Rock). 

And remember that Opera Tickets make great Stocking Stuffers! 

Click HERE to get yours today! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cast Corner - Stephanie Domingues takes the People's Choice Award at the MET Regionals!

We are happy to bring you the first installment of our "Cast Corner" series for our upcoming production of Die Fledermaus! Over the next month will be introducing you each of our cast members.

Our featured artist for this first installment is Soprano, Stephanie Anne Domingues who was just awarded the People's Choice award at the Metropolitan Opera National Audition Competition in the Western Canada District this past weekend! We're not at all suprized that Stephanie was the crowd pleaser as she simply WOW'd us in her audition in September! That said, we'd like to congratulate her on this important stepping stone in a singers career.

Stephanie, who will be singing the role of Adele this January, was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her life as a singer. Here's what she had to say...

Q. How did you get started with Opera?

A. When I was younger, I sang in a choir. My mom asked me if I wanted to go to a "Choir Camp" during the summer and I thought it sounded fun. While I was there, the conductor of the camp, Ann Coper Gay, of the Canadian Children's Opera Company, asked me if I wanted to join her choir.  I remember looking at my mother and saying "No! I don't know how to sing opera!" After listening to some recordings and talking with Ann, I accepted.  Throughout grades 7 to 10 I commuted two hours twice a week to Toronto to sing in the choir and through the CCOC, I also got the opportunity to perform with the COC and for some amazing people in Toronto. While I was singing at the COC, Peter Barrett told my mother that I should apply to this program in the USA called "Tanglewood". I looked into it and applied. I remember really wanting to get into the program, and I did. I atteneded the program in 2005 and 2006.

Q.  What might you say to someone who has never been to an opera before to get them excited about this particular show?

A. It's kind of like when you were a child and went into your mother's closet and put on her most beautiful gown and heels and her makeup. Then, you danced around the house pretending you were at themost hip A-List event in town!

Last question Stephanie...

Q.  Could you imagine yourself doing something else besides singing?

A.  Of course not. I am a strong believer in doing something you love and following your dreams and passion, this way, it doesn't feel like you're working. I can honestly say, every time I perform, every hour I have spent in the practice room, or sitting in a class throughout my Bachelors and Masters degree, I have enjoyed it all. Yes, it has been a challenging road, but it has all lead me to new opportunities, new challenges, and always keeps me happy.

We are very proud of Stephanie and all of the rest of our cast members who competed this past weekend in the Metropolitan Opera Competition. Bravi tutti! And... if you'd like to read more about Stephanie, you can read her full bio on our website!

Stay tuned for our next installment of Cast Corner and all of our other upcoming gems!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Celebrate the New Year Viennese Style with VanCOCO

It's official! Vancouver Concert Opera Society (VanCOCO) will be opening it's Third Season with Johann Strauss Jr's classic gem Die Fledermaus. We have gathered an exceptional International team of artists that will bring the sparkle and the charm of this holiday favorite to you this coming January with performances in Vancouver (January 4th and 5th) and in White Rock (January 6th)!

VanCOCO Presents Die Fledermaus
The story behind "the bat"... The best of friends play pranks on each other, but when Eisenstein abandons Falke in the middle of the town square dressed as a bat, Falke swears revenge. With Prince Orlofsky's permission the stage is set and Falke has invited everyone to a grand ball at the Princes' summer palace where Falke will once and for all strike his revenge. Fast forward to the next morning where the entire party finds itself in the town jail and all swear that it was Champagne, the King of effervescence, who is to blame.

As our mandate says, VanCOCO is all about the music and as such we will be performing this work in its original german language but we will be delivering our witty and charming dialogue to you in English.

You won't want to miss these performances and we want you to stay tuned to our blog and social media in the coming weeks so that we can share with you the cast of amazing singers that we will be featuring in these performances and a little bit of what makes them tick as opera singers. We might even throw in a few holiday treats along the way.

For more information and advance tickets please visit!

To stay up to date on special offers and performance updates, link to us on Twitter and Facebook!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Valentine's Day Your Sweetheart Will Never Forget!

Looking for a way to make Valentine's Day extra special for your sweetheart? Purchase an Adult 2 Pack to one of our upcoming performances of Verdi's Rigoletto between now and Monday, February 13 at 1pm and will be entered to win a Personal Serenade by one of our talented artist plus a Dozen Red Roses!

The lucky winner will be announced at 3pm on Monday, February 13th and your gift will be delivered on Valentine's Day at the location of your choosing... maybe your Sweetheart's workplace? What better way that special person in your life a memory they will never forget!

Purchase your Adult 2 Pack to Rigoletto today directly on our website.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Young and the Opinionated - Paul's 2¢

Paul Just
Tenor and Writer
Giuseppe Verdi is considered a titan among opera composers. He is revered, venerated, and loved by so many because his music is drama and his drama is music. His creations, certainly from his middle and later periods, are of such astounding craftsmanship that it is difficult to choose a favorite, that is if someone is inclined to do so. I am so inclined. For this author and my questionably humble opinion, Verdi's middle period opera, Rigoletto, remains his finest creation.

I would like to preface that I have not always been solidly entrenched in the Verdi fan camp. In fact, it took me quite some time to warm up to a composer whose music I did not fully appreciate because I did not fully understand it. Nothing penned by this musical genius truly captured my imagination. I just never felt that incredible fish hook into my soul. That is, until I pulled a recording of Verdi's jester out of the library. All it took was one listen of the dark-as-night prelude and I was spellbound.

From the outset, the narrative arc reads like a modern-day movie: sex, love, revenge, assassination. It has all the hallmarks of an Oscar-winning drama. However, as a mid-nineteenth century musical melodrama, it had the power of the censors brought down on it, much like the films of Hollywood in the 1930s. Unfortunately, the way that Verdi had originally intended it (the aristocrat and the location had to be changed) was highly unacceptable and he was forced to modify elements of the story in order for the opera to make its way to the stage. When the opera finally did arrive in Venice in 1851, it was a consummate and unmitigated success. Its' success still holds true to this day, as Rigoletto remains one of the most popular and oft-performed operas in the canon. The reason for its incredible success as a music drama, a term usually reserved for Wagner's musical-dramatic productions, is that Verdi took a convoluted French story, courtesy of Victor Hugo, and made a real, human drama that one can so readily feel and become involved in. Verdi's musical narrative is so diabolically visceral that once the chords of the prelude commence, there is no turning back.

The very tenebrous opening notes launch the helpless listener into a vacuum of hopelessness for what seems an eternity of two minutes and then, WHAM, you are thrown into an aristocratic orgy of the basest nature. This is merely the first fifteen minutes of a theatrical masterpiece that without question trumps Violetta Valery's indecisiveness in love in La Traviata, the intense posturing of Alvaro and Carlo in La forza del destino, the fiery incredulity of Princess Eboli in Don Carlo, and the bleak drama and effervescent humour of Otello and Falstaff.

Since the time that I first fully grasped and understood the gravitas of Verdi's incomparable Rigoletto, his other operas, such as Macbeth, Il trovatore and Simon Boccanegra have chiseled their way into my now-Verdi-adoring bosom. Even some of the “galley years” operas, such as Ernani and Giovanna D'Arco deserve attention that they are so often disallowed. However, as magnificent as Verdi's later output might be, his auspicious beginning with Rigoletto, sealed his legacy as one of opera compositions shining beacons.

Some will say that opera is irrelevant and a defunct art form. Those who have never seen an opera will categorically state that it is only for the overeducated, liberal elite. I would challenge said irrational conjectures by giving them my favorite recording of this opera (Merrill/Bjoerling), a synopsis of the plot, a bottle of wine, and a box of tissues.
~ Paul Just, Tenor and Writer

Editor's Note: Paul Just is a young and talented Tenor based out of Vancouver, BC. He has performed with Vancouver Concert Opera Society twice in the past year; Le Remendado in our inaugural concert production of Bizet's Carmen and as part of the Trio in our Award Winning Production of Leonard Bernstein's Trouble In Tahiti (We featured his "amazing socks" on our blog more than a few times). What we did not know, until recently, is that Paul is a not only a gifted singer, but a talented writer with some very strong and educated opinions. We trust you have enjoyed "Paul's 2¢" and we look forward to more interesting posts from him in the future!

Friday, February 3, 2012


If you are not accustomed to the classical musicians lifestyle it has it pros and its cons. Like any other entrepreneurial job, time away from working on the next project almost never happens, but at VanCOCO we definitely know how to enjoy a good Friday night out.  We checked in with our cast about what they do in their time off and found some interesting answers.

When we asked Maestro Gordon Gerrard what his down time consisted of, this was his response..."I am a bit of a music nerd. It sort of takes over my life most of the time. I do read books when I get the time, and I love to cook for people. I recently joined Netflix, and discovering all the TV series that I’ve missed over the past 10 years has greatly reduced my productivity. Most recently, I watched the entire four seasons of The Tudors in a week. Oops."

Mezzo Soprano Jaqollyne Keath tells us that when she is not in opera she is directing shows around the Lower Mainland, acting/singing in Operetta, or sound designing shows. Oh and she like softball. It sounds a bit like when Jaqollyne is not involved in music, she is involved in music. Good thing she loves what she does!

Now we know that Maestro Gerrard called himself a "music nerd" but when we asked Bass-Baritone Max Van Wyck (singing the role of the Court Usher) we think his answer completely trumps our Maestro... "My favorite pastime is school. I love learning and get so excited after every break away from UBC, and practicing everything from voice to piano to history to solfege."  Max likes solfege?  We all do right? Do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti - DOH!

Baritone Aaron Durand is clearly the "jester" in our bunch! Aaron asked us if we would consider "Brunch" as pastime. Sure why not, everybody loves a good late breakfast after a night out. For more hilarity from Aaron go read his blog post!

Singer, actor, writer, choir manager, arts consultant, and voice teacher, Mezzo Soprano Megan Morrison is one of our biggest multi-taskers. We're not surprized that she replied that she loves "leisurely morning coffees, aimless neighbourhood walks, good wine, and old movies."  Apparently she needs to clear her noggin' from time to time!

And of course there are the foodies! Bass-Baritone Jordan Collalto (Sparafucile) and Baritone Ed Moran (Count Monterone) share an infatuation of food and water. Jordan says, "My only hobby outside of opera right now would be cooking. I love trying to make new things or tweak and perfect my own recipes when I have time! Tonight I'm making my first attempts at Neapolitan pizza… I also really enjoy surfing, but finding a whole weekend to go and do that while I'm in school has been really challenging."  Meanwhile, Ed made his very first pot of Julia Child's French Onion Soup this week and followed it up with a pot of his world famous chili (well at least HE thinks its world famous!). When ever Ed gets the chance he is either on the water in a Kayak or under the water in scuba gear. "Scuba is really one of the most relaxing things that you can do, once when I was doing a decompression dive in Okinawa Japan, I started to nod off under water while I was waiting at my prescribed 45 minute decompression stop at 30 feet down." Uhhh, we're glad he woke up!

By far, the most interesting answer was given by Soprano SzuWen Wang, who will be singing Gilda.  We asked her when she is not immersed in learning a role or teaching her students their next aria what she likes to do and her answer consisted of four words..."I'll never tell..." We think this maybe exactly why she is perfect for the role of Gilda!

Well we hope you enjoy your weekends as much as we enjoy ours. Wishing a safe journey to all of our out of towners who are flying into Vancouver this weekend. Rehearsals begin on Monday morning! We can't wait to hear all these stellar voices in one room!

Stay tuned for pics and clips from rehearsals, and if you haven't purchased your tickets - don't drag your feet - they're selling like hot-cakes! Click on Tickets above... that'll get you to the right place!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cast Corner - Aaron Durand

Baritone, Aaron Durand will be joining the Cast of Rigoletto as Marullo! We are excited to have him with us for this production and had a good chuckle at some of his responses to our "Cast Corner" segment. We hope you enjoy them too!

Q.  How did you get started with opera?
A. When I moved to Victoria for college, I wound up in Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Eugene Onegin.I'd participated in lots of musical theatre productions in my home town, but this was completely different.The thrill of putting together such beautiful music, the gripping story, and lavish scenery was like nothing I'd ever experienced. The bug bit, and I've been enthralled ever since.

Q. Have you ever sung Rigoletto before?  If so, where/when?
A. Actually,  Pacific Opera Victoria presented Rigoletto a few months after Onegin, and I had the privilege of performing in the chorus once more. Lucky me!

Q. What is the most exciting thing about Rigoletto for you?
A. By far it's the way Verdi grips onto the real dramatic situation in each scene. This deceptively beautiful music weaves the subtext effortlessly. Verdi was driven by the tinta that music could lend to a dramatic moment, giving it layers and layers of meaning and colour, and there's not a single second where that isn't the case. So awesome!

Q. What might you say to someone who has never been to an opera before to get them excited about this particular show?
A. We're given a bleak, dark look at a man whose every endeavor ends in ruin. His wife is dead, his peers hate him, his boss permits him to exist because it's amusing. He is filled with hurt and paranoia. All that is left for this man is a daughter and her innocence. But how long can that last? or... [he says jokingly...] Rig is an HBO series set to music. Do you like HBO series? I thought you did.

Q. When you are not immersed in opera,  what is your favorite past time?
A. Can brunch be a past time? [We think so!]

Q. Everybody has a guilty pleasure when it comes to music, what yours?  (I listen to the beat 94.5 Top Ten pop music exclusively when in the car, my fav is to cluck along (like a chicken) with overplayed top 10 songs.
A. Not gonna lie, the fresh, delicious rap stylings of Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) are pretty much the best thing ever!

Q. Anything else you can think of that is relevent, or a question that you would to answer that we didn't ask
A. Hmm. How about a favorite quote?

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." 
- CS Lewis

And we'd like to shout out a hearty congratulations to Aaron who will be singing the role of Schaunard (La Boheme) in Vancouver Opera's 2012/13 Season!!! Bravo Aaron!

Don't forget to pick up your tickets for Rigoletto! They're going fast! February 15 and 17 in Vancouver and February 18 in White Rock (South Surrey)!

Oh, and if you'd like to read more about Aaron, visit our artist page for his full bio!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Actors, Lawyers and Business People... Oh My! Introducing our Board of Directors!

Behind every non-profit organization is a Board of Directors. The role of the Board is to mentor, guide and ensure that decisions made, fully support the mandate of organization. As such, it is with excitement that we announce Vancouver Concert Opera Society's Founding Board Members! 
  • Andy Maton, Chair
  • Jack J Huberman QC, Vice-Chair
  • Paul D. Carter, Secretary/Treasurer
  • Susan Freedman, Director-At-Large
  • Colleen Tracy Torrison, Director-At-Large
  • Andrew Tilston, Director-At-Large
To read more about these amazing people, visit our website!

We are thrilled to have such a diverse group of individuals at the helm of this organization and are looking forward to a bright and prosperous future under their guidance and leadership!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

VanCOCO Live at the 2012 Ovation Awards!

Yes, you read that correctly! Contralto Natalie Burdeny and Pianist Wenwen Du will be performing an excerpt from our 2011 Hit Show "Trouble In Tahiti" at the 8TH ANNUAL OVATION AWARDS this Sunday January 29th at 7PM at the Vancouver Academy of Music. And why have we been asked to perform? Well it's because we have been nominated for an Award in the category of for Outstanding Ensemble Production!

Contralto, Natalie Burdeny
As the Ovation Awards are a public award you can vote for us! Today is the last day though! Visit the Applause Musicals website and click on the link to take you to the voting ballot! One entry per person! You have until midnight!

Why should you vote for us? Well, this is quite an honour! The Ovation Awards are typically reserved for Musical Theatre productions and the fact that our little "jazz-influence" opera production has made the list is quite impressive. Regardless of the outcome, we are extremely pleased to have hit the radar of this organization and honoured (we said that once already - we know!) to be recognized for our efforts.
Pianist, Wenwen Du

Interested in attending the awards ceremony? You can still get tickets! The ticket price includes an amazing showcase of nominated artists. Doors open at 6:30 followed at 7PM by a revue including performances from various productions and special guest presenters. Cash bar, before and after show. Full details here!

See you there!

Monday, January 23, 2012

2 for 2! Our second review in Opera Canada!

Trouble In Tahiti
Opera Canada Review
Winter 2011
Honestly we could not have asked for a better year! Our inaugural performance of Bizet's Carmen was a sell-out and garnered a gushing review from our industry magazine Opera Canada!

Hot off the press is Opera Canada's Winter 2011 edition and we were elated to see that our second show of 2011, Bernstein's Trouble In Tahiti, received equal praise!

Honourable mention goes out to the entire cast and production team! This is a great start to 2012!

To read the entire review simply click here!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cast Corner - Frédérik Robert

A TENOR WHO REQUIRES NO INTRODUCTION! For those of you who saw VanCOCO's debut performance of Carmen last January will remember the magic that occurred. Faced with ailing Don Jose, Frédérik stepped in with less than 48 hours notice and sang an utterly moving (and critically acclaimed) performance of Carmen. We at VanCOCO are so glad that he was able to step in on such short notice. Frédérik is thumbs up in our book and he should be in yours as well. We are so excited to have him back to join us for our upcoming February performances of Verdi's Rigoletto where he will be featured as Il Duca (Duke of Mantua). Imagine what he can do when he has had time to prepare! Quite simply, Frédérik is a force to be reckoned with!

Here's what he had to say when we asked him a few inside question.

(Q) We all have a guilty pleasure when it comes to our listening tastes, what do you enjoy listening to that we might find as a surprise?

(A) Guilty? Never! I love musicals and pop ballads from the 80's and 90's. I love my old school Mariah.  The cheesier the better.  As for musicals, the more obscure the better.  ie: if you've ever heard the music from Starlight Express, I'd be super impressed!

(Q) How did you get started with opera?

(A) I started singing opera by accident. In 1999, while I was in full training as a pop and musical theater singer, my voice teacher in Edmonton got notice of a new opera program starting in Edmonton called Opera Nuova. He wanted me to audition as he and I had dabbled in classical music previously. We chose two arias (Pourquoi me reveiller and Che gelida manina) and I went home and started to work on it. Basically I copied Pavarotti's voice, as best I could, and came back to my lesson with my best imitation. My teacher couldn't believe how natural it sounded and how the music suited me. Several months later I did my audition and got the lead in both operas that summer.

(Q)  What would someone who has never experienced opera before enjoy about Rigoletto?

(A) There are very few operas in existence today with so many incredible melodies as you'll find in Rigoletto. If a person is new to opera, they are sure to walk away with the feeling that Rigoletto was one of the BEST shows they've ever heard and seen. They'll be sure to leave the hall whistling one of the tunes from the opera.

Stay tuned for more from "Cast Corner" and don't forget to get your tickets for Rigoletto! February 15 and 17 in Vancouver and February 18 in White Rock where we will be making our debut! Advance tickets are ON SALE NOW and you benefit from savings by getting your tickets early! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Behind the Baton - Maestro Gordon Gerrard

Making his debut with VanCOCO is Maestro Gordon Gerrard. Maestro Gerrard is no stranger to Vancouver having worked as principal repetiteur with Vancouver Opera a number of years ago. We are fortunate and excited to be able to have him return to Vancouver to take the helm for our upcoming performances of Rigoletto. Maestro Gerrard graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to share with us a glimpse at the man behind the baton.

(Q) What is the most exciting thing about Rigoletto for you?

(A)  I had listened to recordings of Rigoletto for years, and I had even worked on the famous bits (Gilda’s big aria and the famous quartet), but when I moved to New York to go to grad school, Rigoletto was the first opera that I saw at the Met. It’s an experience I will never forget. This music is amazing! Rigoletto is about midway through Verdi’s operas, and by this point he had perfected something magical. The way that he wrote for the voices is unlike anything else in the operatic repertoire. The music is so completely conceived for the human voice. He knew more than anyone before him exactly how the human voice works, and how it can connect with the emotional guts of any listener.

(Q)  How did you get started with opera?

(A) I came to opera a little later than some. I grew up in a small town in Manitoba, and opera was not high on the list of activities for a Saturday night. I saw my first opera when I was an undergrad at the University of Manitoba (Hänsel und Gretel). I had at this point started to play for a lot of singers at school, even though my degree was in solo piano. I went to a summer art song festival where I met my now friend and mentor, Michael McMahon, who encouraged me to apply for the brand new opera training program, Opera Nuova in Edmonton. I thought I was unqualified to go, and I said to him, “I don’t know anything about opera!” He replied, “Well, it’s about time you learned.” I’m happy to say that I’m still learning.

(Q) What might you say to someone who has never been to an opera before to get them excited about this particular show?

(A) One of the criticisms that’s often leveled against opera is that the people and situations are too unbelievable for us to engage. Rigoletto is not to be included in this category. The first time (and every time) I see this opera, I am bowled over by the inescapable plight of poor Rigoletto himself. There’s a tragic inevitability about the story; we can see the outcome approaching a mile away, and Rigoletto cannot. As the opera charges on, you can’t help but become involved. You want to tell Rigoletto to change course, but of course you are stuck in your seat, helpless.

(Q) And one last question, everbody has a guilty pleasure when it comes to music, what yours?

(A) Eek. Well I’m kind of a music nerd. My iTunes is nearly all classical. I do own a couple of Rufus Wainwright albums. I recently discovered Madeleine Peyroux, Gavin Creel and Zee Avi. Sadly, that’s about it.

Well admittedly, we were sort of hoping to hear that the Maestro likes to listen to a little Jay-Z or Snoop Doggy Dogg when not waving his arms around passionately, but we know what it's like to have an iTunes account and be frustrated at the lack of classical categories like Romantic, 20th Century, and Baroque! To read more about Maestro Gerrard, click here go directly to his bio!

Stay tuned for our next blog update featuring the multi-talented Tenor, Frédérik Robert who will be joining us again to sing Il Duca after an impressive and memorable jump in as Don Jose in our January 2011 production of Carmen!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cast Corner - Keith O'Brien

Back again with our "Cast Corner" series, we are excited to introduce you to the talented artists that will be hitting the stage in February for our production of Verdi's Rigoletto.

What do you get when you cross a surfer, an oarsman, an architect, and an opera singer?  You get Toronto based Baritone Keith O'Brien! We have known Keith for a long time and are extremely excited to have him joining us in the Title Role of Rigoletto.

As always, we like to give our audience a view of the performer that you might not see from the stage. Here are a few questions to wet your appetite for our show.

(Q) How did you get your start in opera?

(A) I started out as a trumpet player in high school, and went on to McGill in the jazz programme. But I had always been involved with theatre in high school, and so it seemed like opera was a perfect way to combine music and theatre. I had done some singing in high school, so I made the switch to opera in my second year of university. I've done plenty of music theatre along the way, but opera is far more edifying musically as well more intense dramatically. 
(Q) What is the most exciting aspect of Rigoletto for you?

(A) Baritones rarely get to play the lead role, so that alone makes this production very interesting for me. In addition, this is a Verdi role, which puts Rigoletto in a special category. Verdi understood and wrote so well for a particular subset of the baritone fach. Since his writing essentially created the category, it became known as the Verdi Baritone. The vocal demands of Verdi's writing for his baritones are far greater than any composer previous to him. The choice to cast the baritone as the lead means that the dramatic demands are greater than usual, but Verdi was always good at creating multifaceted characters for the baritone in all of his operas. Even when he casts the baritone as the villain, which is most of the time, there is a multidimensionality there that goes beyond the simple archetype.

(Q) When you are not immersed in opera what is your favorite pastime.

(A)  I work as an Architect in Toronto when I'm not singing.  During my undergrad at McGill and my Masters at University of Toronto I was an oarsman on the varsity rowing team and I enjoyed many chances to compete internationally all over North America, Europe and Asia. Nowadays, my new athletic passion is surfing. Living in the centre of Canada means that I only get a chance to surf when I'm on vacation, so lately I can't imagine taking a vacation anywhere that doesn't offer excellent surfing.

Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear Keith as he debuts the role of Rigoletto with VanCOCO and stay tuned for more from Keith and the rest of our cast!

Take advantage of advance ticket pricing and click here to buy your tickets today!