Thursday, December 29, 2011

VanCOCO Celebrates Year One!!! Share your accomplishments and WINTICKETS to Rigoletto!

Concert Opera Society
2011 Year In Review

A New Year is upon us and we at VanCOCO have been thinking about our many accomplishments in 2011 and what the New Year has in store for us. While we don't like to use the word "resolutions" because "resolutions" have a habit of falling through the cracks, instead we have decided to present a YEAR IN REVIEW to commemorate our first season.

Did we really do this?

Yes we did! 2011 was VanCOCO's inaugural year and we couldn't be happier with the results. Our Founder and Artistic Director, Natalie Burdeny, began with the observation that there simply weren’t enough professional performance opportunities for the many talented artists in Vancouver and that taking on the financial risk of a production individually was simply not feasible. As a result the solution was conceived; a co-operative! The idea was simple; band together like-minded performers to work in a co-operative fashion and mount a professional scale concert performance where not only the financial risk was shared by the artists involved but in turn, so was the financial gain and the artistic rewards. 

And what a ride it has been! Beginning with our very first concert production of Bizet’s Carmen in January 2011, we performed to a sold-out audience who leapt to their feet in applause at the conclusion (Read the review from Opera Canada here). That performance will always be remembered; wrought with illness, Tenor Frédérik Robert stepped in on 36 hours notice to perform the role of Don Jose and young Bass-Baritone Max Van Wyck also stepped in to cover an ailing Zuniga. With some fearless leadership from Maestra, Rosemary Thomson and our two-handed orchestra, Kinza Tyrrell, the night was spectacular! VanCOCO was officially off to the races.

Throughout the year we were able to perform 5 concerts of Carmen in Vancouver, Victoria, and Richmond. While the financial gains were minimal the artistic rewards and exposure were well worth the effort.

And if “concert opera” wasn’t enough, we found ourselves fully entrenched in our first foray into the cyclone that is the “Fringe Festival”. Plans for the mounting of a staged production of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble In Tahiti began in the early spring with performances set for September. This time we had sets to build, choreography to learn, find and secure a cast and crew to run the show, and most importantly find someone who could play this challenging piece. In the end, the show was a huge success (reviews here!), we learned a boat-load about self-marketing, and we had so much fun being a part of the “Fringe Family” that we are toying with the idea of a commissioned piece that we could tour with in the future. Of course kudos are in order to Kathleen Gable Lohrenz (our fearless Music Director who held us all together), Andrea Rabinovitch (Choreographer responsible for the "Little White House"), Phil Schultze (Lighting Designer) and Ed Moran who wore just about every hat possible, including directing the show and singing the role of Sam! 

Our season finished off with two final back-to-back performances of Carmen at Minoru Chapel in Richmond in October with VanCOCO newbies Mezzo-Soprano Megan Morrison and Pianist, Michal Onwood joining us for the first time. A delightful venue, again with appreciative audiences, it was a pleasure to be a part of their “Opera Series” and we hope to return to Minoru with a new concert production in 2012.

Lessons learned?

Yes, there were many! While each production had its challenges the overall reward outweighed them all. In the end, we believe we made a positive contribution to Vancouver’s musical scene and met the goals of our mandate to provided high-level performance opportunities to the singers in this community as well as top-notch performances to our audiences. We learned that a good marketing plan is essential and that none of this could be achieved without the hard-working volunteers that have helped us along the way! Fiscally the year could have been better, but as we learn and grow as an organization we are confident that VanCOCO will continue to thrive in the community. We are committed to keeping our ticket prices affordable so that we can continue to entice new audiences through our doors and keep the art of “opera” alive.

What’s next?

As we step into the New Year it is fitting that we also have a new name. In late November of this year we were officially granted our non-profit status and we are now Vancouver Concert Opera Society” – but you can still call us VanCOCO!!! Our first Founding Board Members meeting will kick off the New Year and will undoubtedly lead to a more focussed vision and concise plan for VanCOCO for the coming years.

And with our new name comes a new production!

February 15 & 17 in Vancouver / February 18 in White Rock
In mid-February we will mount Verdi’s gripping tale of Rigoletto. The talented Maestro Gordon Gerrard will lead us with his baton for these performances planned for February 15 and 17 in Vancouver and February 18 in White Rock. You will see some familiar faces with the enigmatic Tenor, Frédérik Robert returning to us as the Duke of Mantua, along with some fresh faces including Toronto-based Baritone, Keith O’Brien who will make his debut as Rigoletto, and local Soprano, Szu-Wen Wang who will delight you with her sparkling colouratura as Gilda!

Tell us your goals for 2012 and WIN TICKETS!

This is how we intend to ring in the New Year at VanCOCO and we want you to tell us what's in your Year-In-Review. And just for sharing your thoughts with us, we will randomly draw 3 winners from the responses received by January 16 to attend a Rigoletto performance of your choice in February (with a friend of course!).

From all of us at VanCOCO we wish you a prosperous 2012!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Seasons Greetings and Gilda's Ginger Snaps!

Seasons Greetings

VanCOCO would like to send each of you a warm Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings. Each and every one of you have helped us to have a hugely successful 2011 and for that we are truly grateful. We sincerely hope that this season finds you in the presence of those whom you adore most.

VanCOCO started 2011 with a hugely successful production of Carmen, which we have remounted twice this year, and a fully staged production of Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival. What you may not know is that we have now become a fully registered Non-Profit Society and we are now Vancouver Concert Opera Society, but you can still call us VanCOCO because our motto and mandate have not changed. We are still "all about the music" and our goal remains to "create performance opportunities for emerging Operatic Professionals." We made some great connections during these productions and we hope that we have made some long standing fans.

Big Announcements

We will be opening 2012 with a concert production of Verdi's masterwork Rigoletto. We have assembled a fine group of artists who will be lead by the baton of Maestro Gordon Gerrard and we know that you will not be disappointed. Tickets are currently available for advance purchase on-line and available just in time to make a great stocking stuffer for the opera aficionado on your list.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for entertaining information about our upcoming show.

Click here for Advance Tickets or visit our Facebook Event Page.


We wanted to give all of our fans a new Audi A4 to show our love but our new Board of Directors just wouldn't approve the budget so we decided that we would share with you our favorite Christmas cookie recipe. Make sure to leave some of these out for Santa and maybe he will leave you something extra special under the tree.
  • 3/4 Cup Shortening
  • 1 Cup Br. Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Molasses
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 1/4 Cup Sifted flower
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
Cream together shortening, brown sugar, molasses, and egg until light and fluffy. Sift together dry ingredients.  Mix dry ingredients into molasses mixture. Refrigerate dough overnight. Form into small balls and roll in granulated sugar.

Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for 10 minutes or until cookie tops begin to crackle. (For crispier cookies, bake 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to darken). Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Enjoy with a glass of your favorite holiday beverage and be sure to share with the ones you love.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Last Day Of the Fringe

We knew this day was inevitable! The last day of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival is here and we are very sad that it is about to end. We have one final performance today at 7:15 at the Firehall Arts Centre and we hope you will join us for this final show.

This experience has been one that we encourage all opera singers and producers to take part in. We have had the privilege of meeting so many other artists from across the span of performance art. We have met clowns, actors, singers, dancers, other producers. We have learned what seems to work as a Fringe and we have learned what doesn't work so well.

We also had the privilege of spending nearly three weeks with our fabulous Music Director Kathleen Lohrenz Gable, and we know that we speak for the entire cast when we say this woman is a true genius and a consumate educator. She has pushed us to our limits and forced us to take the show to new levels and to grow so much as performers and artists. We simply can not wait until we have the opportunity to work with Kathy again. Thank you so much.

VanCOCO will next be seen at the Minoru Chapel on Oct 5th in a Highlights of Carmen Concert as part of the Minoru Chapel Opera Nights Series. As for the rest of the cast, well, Katherine Landry starts her school tour with Vancouver Opera In Schools (which she has been rehearsing during the Fringe Festival), Paul Just is going to spend some time enjoying his new engagement to the lovely Carolyn Barker, Ed Moran will be singing Dulcamara in L'Elisir d'amore with Vancouver Island Opera as well as doing everything he can with VanCOCO as the Company Production Manager. Natalie Burdeny is headed off to Charlotte, North Carolina so work with renowned Mezzo-Soprano Victoria Livengood, and Grant Wardlow is in the market for his next gig!

Pictures courtesy of Natasha Vignal - NV Images.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A few more "Shows We Saw" and some audience reaction!

Trio Member Paul Just
rocking it out at Karaoke
Night at the Fringe Bar
Wow! It's hard to believe there are only 3 more days of the Fringe Festival! This has been hands-down one of the most amazing experiences ever. Aside from producing a stellar show, we have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful artists and Fringe-goers alike. If you ever get to be a part of this Festival we can guarantee it will be an experience to remember.

When we're not on the stage, we've been taking in many of the shows on and off island! The plethora of talent is outstanding. Last night, while having a post show celebratory drink at the Fringe Bar (AGRO Cafe on Granville Island) we were trying to decide what late-night show to catch before packing it in when we were approached by charming actor/singer/musician pitching his show "The Illumination of the Grumpy Guitarist". Long story short, he sold us and we quickly guzzled our drinks and skipped over to the Review Theatre to see what the hubbub was about!

In case we needed
directions to the bar! ;-)
Delighted, surprized and thoroughly entertained is all we can say! So much so, that we leapt to our feet at the end. It was a combination of theatre, song and dance by some VERY TALENTED artists! It was a great end to an evening! If you're still trying to decide what to see on these last 3 days of the festival we highly recommend this show! And they have 2 performances left! Friday at 6:45pm and Sunday at 1:55pm. Go check it out!

"The Birdman" was another show we took in a few nights ago. Weird, quirky and strange is all we can say! But the uninhibited dance number at the end was worth the wait! He's at Performance Works!

Tony, our amazing stage manager had this to say about "Under the Mango Tree"... "UTMT was great. Veneesh Dubois is a very talented performer who played several roles in this semi-autobiographical play about her growing up in Fiji ‘Under the Mango Tree’. It was moving and delightful and incorporated film, music and her singing and dancing. I would recommend it her personality is charming and her acting good." You can catch this show at the Firehall (same venue as Trouble In Tahiti!)

As for Trouble In Tahiti, we still have 3 performances to go! Tonight (Friday) and Saturday we've got twilight shows at 11pm and our CLOSING (sniff-sniff) show is on Sunday at 7:15pm. There's still time to get your tickets in advance through or at the door (cash only).

Here's a smattering of what we've been hearing from our audiences!

"Congratulations on all your hard work. I really really enjoyed your production last night. Thanks for bringing such a rare gem to Vancouver audiences." ~ Scott Ashton Swan (Applause Musicals)

"Congrats on a great show. So glad I got to see you all tonight. The street scene duet was just gorgeous. A real success all around." ~ Diane Speirs

"I was at the show last night. LOVED the music. Congratulations to you all!" ~ Susinn McFarlen (Actor/Playwright)

"Let me again congratulate you on Trouble in Tahiti – I thoroughly enjoyed it." ~ James W. Wright (General Director, Vancouver Opera)

"I'm glad I came!" ~ Reviewer (Opera Canada)

Tahiti Musical Director Kathy Gable
with Trio Member Grant Wardlow
relaxing at the Fringe Bar!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fringe Shows We Saw!

Did you know there are nearly 90 shows at the Vancouver Fringe Festival? Our cast and crew has been taking advantage of our Artist Passes to see a plethora of the offerings. We thought we'd share with you some our experiences!

Ed and Natalie with Martha the
Whale from Lost in Place
"Lost in Place" is a site-specific show over at the old Crane on Granville Island. A BEACHED WHALE, A CRASH-LANDED SPACEMAN… AND YOU! How could it get any better than that? Well it does. An original work by Seth Soulstein (Alley Theatre), he calls it an interactive fantasy about love, loss, and the struggle between giving up hope and continuing to fight the fight. I highly recommend seeing this show. You do not want to miss it. ~ Ed Moran

"Every Story Ever Told" by Ryan Gladstone is playing at Carousel Theatre. This is another must see! I don't know how he manages to do it but we left the theatre actually thinking that he may actually have just told us every single story that was ever told all in one hour. Our experience featured "Tales of the Iguana"! Your's will undoubtedly be unique!You have to go and see it to believe it. ~ Natalie Burdeny & Ed Moran

"Since You Left Us" is an outrageous new comedy by Susinn McFarlen directed by Allan Morgan playing at the Firehall Arts Centre. A story of a dysfunctional family like no other! This show had me laughing and crying all at the same time. A dog in diapers??? "SINCE YOU LEFT US is about making peace with the family you have, not the one you wish you had". In my book it was a perfect 10! Bravi tutti! Put this one on your MUST SEE list! ~ Natalie Burdeny

"The Seminar" presented by Poiema Productions is a dark comedy about "ugly people". I saw the preview for this show at the Fringe For All and immediately added it to my must see list. "ATTENTION UGLY PEOPLE! Don't let your genetics define who you are are!" is one of the tag-lines for this show. I have to say this show made me feel extremely uncomfortable. So much so, I had the impulse to leave (but didn't 'cause that would be rude!). That said, I give kudos to this cast for stretching the boundaries of theatre and staying in their outrageous characters throughout the show. It may have not be for me, but it may be for you. Give it a try! They have 4 performances left at the Review Stage on Granville Island. ~ Natalie Burdeny

"This is Cancer!" has been getting RAVE reviews and I have to agree if you see anything at the Fringe (aside from Trouble In Tahiti of course) THIS is the show to experience. I guarantee you'll love and hate Cancer all at the same time. More info on their website! 3 more shows at Performance Works on Granville Island. And if you sit up front you may get a free martini! ~ Natalie Burdeny

Ed with Seth (the Arth-ling)
from Lost in Place

The Reviews Are In! And no... there is no naked Sam!

Trouble In Tahiti
September 8 to 18, 2011
Firehall Arts Centre
We have three performances under our belt and five left to go! Yesterday the reviews came pouring in and we are tickled pink with what the critics have had to say. Below are some snippits from the reviews. You'll also find hyperlinks each of the individual reviews should you wish to read the full version.

"Very innovative approach to the Berstein opera, and excellent performance by these five talented opera singers!" - Review Vancouver

“If you’ve wanted to try an opera but never dared go to one because it seemed inaccessible, Trouble in Tahiti is probably the best introduction. It’s in English, it’s accessible and it’s very short (40 minutes).”
- Anabelle Bernard Fournier, Hummingbird604

"Contralto Natalie Burdeny carries the lyricism of the aria beautifully and has the maturity to convey the sadness and desperation of trying to get from a bed of weeds to a garden of love and happiness."Lisa Barrett, Plank Magazine

"The show left me touched and sad, a good sign that the singers conveyed the emotions well. I had a great time and I recommend it to opera newbies and buffs alike." Anabelle Bernard Fournier, Hummingbird604

"The show scene is a witty triumph itself with a naked* Sam singing about the glories of being a winner." - Lisa Barrett, Plank Magazine

* Just a little clarification on the quote above. There is no actual nudity in this show but maybe a little "teaser" which is what the critic above is referring to. You'll just have to come see it for yourself to understand what that's all about!

We have 5 performances left and 10% of proceeds to to the Vancouver Food Bank on Friday night! Show your support and keep opera at the Fringe!

Tuesday, September 13 @ 7:15pm
Thursday, September 15 @ 7:00pm
Friday, September 16 @ 11:00pm
Saturday, September 17 @ 11:00pm
Sunday, September 18 @ 7:15pm

Tickets Online: Tickets may be purchased online up to 4 hours before showtime.
At the Door: Tickets are available at the door 45 minutes before curtain. CASH ONLY!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fringe is in full swing!

So the Vancouver International Fringe Festival is in full swing and VanCOCO is having a blast. Over the past few days we have had the pleasure of meeting some really awesome people; both audience members and cast and crew from other shows.

Ed Moran (Sam) and Natalie Burdeny (Dinah)
checking out the Sanny Board Forest
on Granville Island
Thursday night after our final music rehearsal we all headed down to Performance Works on Granville Island to take part in the "Fringe For All". Along with about 40 other presenters we gave the audience a 2 minute accapella snip-it of Trouble In Tahiti to entice Fringe-goers to circle our show in their Fringe Guide and come and experience Opera at the Fringe.

The most exciting news though is that we had our first performance yesterday! We had a great turnout and we were ecstatic to feel the pulse of a live audience laughing and gasping in all the right places! The entire cast and crew left the theatre after the performance pleased as peacocks! Oh, and we even signed a few autographs at the end! FUN!!!!

After the frantic strike we headed down to the FringeBar at Agro Cafe on Granville Island for a much deserved glass of wine, a few beers, and some delicious munchies. Afterward we went our respective ways to go and see the shows that interested us the most.

Ed Moran (Sam) took in an impromptu performance at the Agro Cafe Wild Canyon Stage (???) of "Say Wha" a collection of literature that once read actually insites the words "Say Wha". His favorite quote of the evening was from a magazine that said, "You are the ball bearing rolling around in the glass house inside of me"...Say Wha?

Natalie Burdeny (Dinah) and Kathy Gable (Musical Director) took in two otheer shows that evening: "You are not Dead: A Guide to Modern Living" at the Granville Island Hotel and "This is Cancer" at Performance Works. Both were equally entertaining, however Natalie said that "This is Cancer" was exceptional! She didn't know whether to love it or hate it as she laughed and shed a tear or two. "You'll feel moments of extreme discomfort and joy.... if I were to recommend a show... it would be This is Cancer!", she said.

Trouble In Tahiti has 7 more runs and you can get the full schedule on our website ( We invite you to head on down to the Firehall Arts Centre... in the words of the surprise critic who came to our show last night... "I'm glad I came!" Don't miss it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Take a photo and WIN tickets to Trouble In Tahiti!

Kate Wilkins, Festival Assistant
Today was Artist Check-In at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival tent on Granville Island! We arrived early of course, and there was already a line-up! The ever so friendly and sweet Kate was there to help us get oriented and answer the million and one questions we had!

We claimed our "sanny-board" (#11a) and now we have a challenge for you! In the next few days, the "sanny-boards" will be circulating around Granville Island. If you want to WIN two tickets to a performance of Trouble In Tahiti  all you have to do is:

(a) Find our "sanny-board" (Hint: It's #11a)
(b) Take a photo with you and our "sanny-board"
(c) Email your photo and name to info [at] vancoco [dot] ca by Wednesday, September 14th!

The "Sanny-Boards"
We will randomly draw two winners on Thursday, Sept. 15th for our 11pm shows on Sept. 16 and 17 respectively. Boards will begin circulating in another day or two so be sure to go snap your shot and check out some of the other fantastic Fringe shows both on and off the Island!

Interested in other ways to win tickets? Local social media guru Hummingbird604 is doing a giveaway and you can check it out by clicking "here".

And... to the 100th person who "follows us" on Twitter, we'll be giving away another 2 free tickets!

Can't wait to see your photos! This should be FRINGE-TASTIC!!!!


The first photo has been submitted!
Madeline Hannan-Leith!!! Great shot!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tech Day at the Firehall Arts Centre

We are excited to say we are all moved into the theatre, unpacked and just about ready to go. We spent the majority of the day on Saturday positioning our set and hanging our lights. Sound cues have been worked out and projections are in place. We're in great shape for our dress rehearsal tonight.

We are so glad that we have such an awesome Technical Team. Here is a pic of our Lighting Designer Phil Schulze hard at work in the rafters making sure that you can see our shiny faces on stage. But he is just one of the fantastic team members helping us put together this show.

Joining us again are Anthony Wade-Cooper as our Stage Manager and Wayne Gilbart as our ASM. Corwin Ferguson from Awkward Stage Productions also lent us a hand with our projections, and the folks at the Firehall were also hard at work making us look and sound great!

A big thanks to everyone who has helped along the way! We open in just a few days and we hope that you will all enjoy this show as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.

And... for those who enjoyed our segment on "Paul's Amazing Socks" we thought you'd enjoy this photo! We're not sure how he managed to coordinate this, but Paul's Socks even matched the set. Guess you will have to come and see the show to believe it. And, if you ask nicely, we're sure Paul will gladly lift his trousers to give you a peek at the "Sock-du-Jour". (Note we said "lift" and not "drop"!)

Check out our website for a complete listing of showtimes and ticket information.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Paul's Amazing Socks

We know what you are thinking... What do Paul's socks have to do with Opera, Trouble in Tahiti, or even the Fringe Festival for that matter. The answer is simple... NOTHING! Except that they are just plain awesome!!!

Paul is always dressed like a dashing model for American Eagle, but this week during rehearsals we have been privy to some of his fantastic sock collection and we thought everyone should get the chance to experience Paul's Amazing Socks!
Don't miss your opportunity to see Paul at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival. Maybe if you ask nicely he will show you his AWESOME SOCKS!

Trouble in Tahiti moves into the theatre today, so we will have some sneak peak shots on Monday for those of you who can't wait for the opening night!

Don't forget... we open on September 9th and tickets are available at as well as the the Fringe Box Office on Granville Island!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bright and Early at CBC Radio Studio 3!

Hey VanCOCO Fans! We just wanted to let you know to keep an ear out for our radio spot which will be airing on CBC Radio over the next couple of weeks to promote Trouble In Tahiti at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival. We sang our first notes of the day in CBC Recording Studio 3 and managed to get in a two minute sound byte of music from the show to entice fans over to Firehall Arts Centre. From the looks of it, the cast quite enjoyed the experience.

We are also very excited that we finished the day with our Designer Run where fellow actor/director Andy Maton, our Lighting Designer Phil Schulze, and the rest of our crew showed up to watch the show and provide us with some audience feedback and a fresh perspective on the production that we have been preparing for our new Fringe Audience. We managed to squeeze in two top-to-bottom runs yesterday and it was so exciting to see the continued energy and breath being put into this living work of art.

Don't forget... we open on September 9th and tickets are available at as well as the the Fringe Box Office on Granville Island!

Check back tomorrow for a feature on Paul's Socks!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creative Team :: It started with a photo...

A few months back I was wasting the usual amount of time checking out the newsfeeds on my Facebook account when I stumbled across some really cool promo photos from one of my connections. Much to my surprize, my buddy Vince Hemingson had taken up photography! He was already a talented writer and notorious blogger, so why should I be surprised that he was now delving into the art of photographic imagery? He's obviously creative, right?

The photos I stumbled on were part of a "Fashion Editorial" project for his course at Langara College. When I saw them I knew immediately the Vince was exactly the right person to shoot our promo-photos for Trouble in Tahiti! So I popped off a quick email and much to my surprize he responded almost immediately with a resounding, YES! Thank you Vince!

We booked the shoot the following week and to make it even more special, Vince contacted the very talented stylist Scarlett Ballentyne to help us with the shoot - incidentally she was the stylist for the "Fashion Editorial" so I was pretty chuffed that we scored both of them! The entire process took about 2 hours from make-up to modelling and Vince made it so fun and easy! I think the proof is in the pudding as they say!

I've included a link here to Vince's Fashion Editorial because I think these are amazing shots and you should check them out. You can also visit his website to see all his "Tattoo" images and read a little more about the man behind the camera.

Scarlett also has a great website/blog. Not only is she a great stylist, but she's a top representative for hip jewelry line called Stella and Dot. Need some swag? Scarlett is the lady to call! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shows We Like :: 4th Edition!

Veenesh Dubois
Under The Mango Tree
It would seem that the inspiration for most theatre comes from adversity or struggle. Trouble in Tahiti centres around a married couple who are struggling to get back to the magic of love that they experienced when they first met. This is not an uncommon topic and segways nicely into the next installment of "Shows We Like".

Producer, playwright and actor Veenesh Dubois is no stranger to the Fringe stage. Her show, Under the Mango Tree is returning to the Vancouver International Fringe Festival after its successful debut in 2009. Since then she has toured the show on numerous Fringe stages (Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto) along with many other independent theatres to rave review.

Under The Mango Tree is about a daughter's love and yearning for her father. The father lives in a small village and wants to find fame, fortune and better opportunities, so he leaves his family behind and emigrates to Canada. The story follows the letters that the daughter and the father exchange between one another.

This play is inspired by Dubois' own personal experience of being a young girl who grew up on a dirt floor hut in Ba, Fiji and being abandoned by her father who emigrated to Canada to make a better life for his family. While her father eventually sent for her, the play explores Dubois' own feelings around being abandon in Fiji and her family's immigration story to Canada.

Under The Mango Tree would appear to be another example of the complexity of family. The play itself has garnered rave review, described as "A tremendously told story" (Edmonton Sun), "Evocative & Entertaining" (Eye Weekly Toronto), and "An Emotional Roller Coaster" (NorthWest Interviewer - Sheryl McKay).

We can't wait to see Dubois in action! And this shouldn't be difficult as she is sharing the stage with us at the Firehall Arts Centre for the duration of the 2011 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

For more information about Dubois and Under The Mango Tree visit her website! And stay tuned for highlights from Day 2 of Trouble In Tahiti rehearsals. Staging starts today!

Twitter: @VanCOCoOp

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trouble In Tahiti :: Rehearsals :: Day 1

2/3 of our Trio!
Grant and Katherine
getting cutesy!
Wow, what a day! We just completed our first day of rehearsals and this show is going to be magical! After a productive and inspiring "Day 1" we thought it might be interesting to share with our readers a little bit about the rehearsal process in the "World of Opera".

In the "World of Opera", singers are expected to arrive on the first day of rehearsals fully prepared and ready to begin staging. This means you are completely studied, memorized and have sorted out your own dramatic intent on the day you arrive. This is quite different from the "World of Theatre" where actors are encouraged to arrive with an idea of the framework not to the point where the organic process can't take place. When there is music involved things just have to happen differently!

Trouble in Tahiti is a very ensemble driven show and because of this, we are taking time at the beginning of our rehearsal period to make sure that the show is flowing the same for everyone. We need to ensure that we are all breathing in the same energy and that our emotion flows from a very organic speech-like space. Our music director, Kathleen Lohrenz Gable, has arrived equipped to assist in making this happen, by encouraging us to deliver our text in the same dramatic shape in which we would speak them; ensuring that we are not merely singing the right notes, with the right rhythms, at the right time. Basically she is pushing us all to bring our individual and collaborative performances to the next level and to YOU our audience.

We accomplished a lot today! So it's time for some rest as tomorrow begins our first day of staging rehearsals.

Don't forget we open on September 9th! You can get your tickets at!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"STRUT"-ing our stuff! Tahiti Cast Member Grant Wardlow visits the iMambo Studios!

On Friday morning we had a unique opportunity to shoot a STRUT video! Trouble in Tahiti Cast Members Grant Wardlow and Natalie Burdeny headed down to the iMambo studios at 910 Richards Street with a script in hand. We were greeted by Kim Elton, CEO of iMambo and Fringe Executive Director, David Jordan.

While we waited, we got to hear a professional shoot for a local sports-caster and were able to catch up on our hockey news - an interesting update on Sidney Crosby of the Vancouver Canucks. Grant jokingly commented... maybe we should get him to do this for us!

But NO! Grant was a trouper. It took only 3 takes to get it down and the STRUT staff made it super easy! Meanwhile, Natalie managed to snap a couple of shots we thought you might enjoy!

Grant getting some quick tips on how to deliver the STRUT!

The STRUT cameraman making sure Grant looks just right!

Not only did this guy run the camera...
he had one hand running the script for the
teleprompter at the same time! Glad
we came prepared with USB stick in hand!

Grant in action! Perhaps he just found another calling!
At minimum we'd love Grant to STRUT with us again!
As soon as the STRUT video becomes available we'll let you know! Now if only we can get our hands on the blooper reel!

Now for the plug! If you've got a website, you need a STRUT! Go check out the iMambo/STRUT for more information. It's actually quite reasonable and really fun too!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Even More Shows We Like!

What if the greatest love
of your life is you dog?
by Susinn McFarlen
The entire process of producing a "Fringe" show has been exceptionally rewarding! Not only because we get the chance to produce a rarely performed work and bring a new genre to the "Fringe" in Vancouver, but because we have met so many really interesting people along the way. Susinn McFarlen is one of them!

The day we met Susinn it was an instant "LIKE". Susinn is just plain cool! An award winning actress, with a tonne of experience in the theatre world, and a great new play to boot! We love creative people and undoubtedly she'd have some words of wisdom to share with us.

But alas, we're not here to just tell you how amazing Susinn is... you'll have to be the judge of that! She has written a play called "Since You Left Us". It has been 3 years in the making and the final results will come to fruition at the Firehall Arts Centre on September 8th.

The inspiration for this play is quite interesting and admirable. We at VanCOCO get it because we are ultimately doing the same thing in our own genre! In Susinn's own words... "Three years ago I counted the number of men over the age of 50 on stages in Vancouver. This was AFTER Bard closed. There were over 20 of them. However, not a single woman over the age of 50 was working. Right then I was determined to write a play that had interesting characters for older women. I knew that if I wrote great parts for women, I could get the best women in Vancouver to play them - because none of us were working. And I was right!".

And thus, Susinn started on her three year journey as a first-time playwright. She has already had some noteworthy success! This year she was invited to the prestigious Banff Playwright Colony to workshop the play for 2 weeks with a dramaturge and a cast and as a result she won the Larry Lillo and John Moffat Prize at this years Jessie Richarson Awards which is helping to cover the costs of self producing.

So what is the play about? Well here's the skinny...

Fanny hasn’t been home to visit her family in 15 years. Not since she sobered up. From the moment she walks in the door and sees her sister’s old dog eating dinner in a high chair and the rest of the family arrive drunk from 2 for 1 night at the local Hooters she knows it’s gonna be a difficult weekend. But when her mother’s drunken boyfriend passes out on top of the dog the entire visit is derailed. This outrageous new comedy takes us on an adventure that is unexpected and heartbreaking. SINCE YOU LEFT US is about making peace with the family you have, not the one you wish you had.

If you want to read more about Susinn, go to her website!

If you want to WIN TICKETS to her show... go here! (Beware... your going to need a dog and a camera to make this happen!).

If you want to read about the AWARD WINNING Cast and Crew (which includes a 4 legged cast member)... go here!

Other than that... just go see it!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Choreography is in the Bag

Our Choreo Genius!
Andrea Rabinovitch
Well, we spent the last two days working out our step-cross patterns and our step-ball-changes with Andrea Rabinovitch and we can't wait to show you our new grooves in the Firehall.

Below we have a dance step we call, "I am praying that I make it through rehearsal week." I am thinking this may be all the dance craze this coming fall.

Katherine... you are late for High-Tea!

And a "Family Picture second to none"!

We poke fun, but seriously we are soooo happy with the hard-work and effort that our trio put in for the last two days and just know our audiences are going to love your new dance moves.

Don't forget! We open on September 9th at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 East Cordova). Opening night is half-price night so if you're counting your pennies, you can't go wrong with a $6 ticket!

Stay tuned for tommorrow's blog installment of "Shows We Like"... where you'll get a chance to meet the wonderful Susinn McFarlen and learn about her show "Since You Left Us!".

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Shows We Like!

So we are back to share more "Shows We Like". This time we'd like to share a little about a production that we get to share the stage with at the Firehall Arts Centre (280 East Cordova).

Winner of last years "Pick of the Fringe Award," Awkward Stage Productions will be presenting the musical SMILE. Not only are we super stoked that we get to see a whole lotta puppet action with their show, but we are super excited about Awkward Stage Productions mission. If you haven't heard of them yet, Awkward Stage Productions is committed to providing real life performance and production opportunities to youth in that awkward transition from childhood to adulthood, and from play acting to professional performance. Last year Awkward Stage had the youngest cast in the Fringe Festival with their production of "13". Their productions provide not only youth performers, but youth musicians, technical crew, production assistants, etc. with professionally guided theatre experience.

Not only does Awkward Stage take on one cast of youth, but they take a second, slightly older cast, to mentor the younger cast which has a huge benefit to both casts, resulting in what we are sure will be life long relationships.

Kudos to you Awkward Stage and the cast and crew of SMILE, we can't tell you how excited we are to see your show.

Plus an interesting note: PUPPETS DON'T SWEAT!

If you enjoyed that video, check out their bi-weekly YouTube updates on "The Lives of Puppets".

Check back tomorrow for photos and tales from our first two days of choreography with Andrea Rabinovitch!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


A big part of the Fringe Festival is the spirit of creativity and friendship that goes along with it. Here at VanCOCO we are producing our first ever Fringe show, and what we hope is the beginning of a tradition of bringing new audiences to opera. That being said, we would like to take a moment to share with our readers some of the other shows at the Fringe that we are very excited to see.

Last February our friend and actress/playwright Lynna Goldhar Smith invited us to be apart of the Fringe Festival at the Cultch. Unfortunately the venue was not a good fit for us, but we got a chance to hear about her new script called Sally Lives Here and how excited she was that she was coming back to do a Fringe Show after a long time away from the Fringe Festival.

Lynna says, "I love the spirit of the Fringe Festival. I love the unbridled creativity. I am so happy to be part of it again after all these years." We love it too Lynna and we are glad that you are at the Fringe Festival with us, even though we are not in the same venue. We will definitely be in line to see your show.

Watch the Trailer Here:

And for more information and show times on Sally Lives Here, please visit her website or you can follow her on Twitter! And if that's not enough, you can read about other exciting "East Side" Fringe productions on our producers collaborative page! We'll be telling you about a few more of these talented people in days to come!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Introducing our Music Director Kathleen Lohrenz Gable

We just can't explain how excited we are that Kathleen Lohrenz Gable will be joining us as our Music Director for Trouble In Tahiti! In just five short days she arrives to share with us her expertise at the keyboard and to help us shape and nuance this sparkling, yet darkly dramatic score that Mr. Bernstein has given to us.

Kathleen is joining us from Saskatoon where she currently teaches Applied Piano and is the Music Director for the Music Theatre Ensemble at the University of Saskatchewan. Most of us in the cast however, know her from our fond days of Opera NUOVA (Newly United Operatic Vocalists Association), Edmonton's national level opera training program.

Kathleen is very busy trying to catch all of her university students up so that she can join us here in Vancouver for the Fringe Festival, but she had some time to tell us about an exciting encounter she had personally with Leonard Bernstein.

When my husband and I were on our honeymoon to New York City we had an opportunity to observe Leonard Bernstein as he conducted the Portland Youth Orchestra who were sitting first chair beside the New York Philharmonic. We watched a rehearsal in the afternoon when the harpists was having difficulty with the score. Berstein was working hard with him and it was a tense moment. We decided to attend the concert later that evening. At the concert the harpist absolutely played his part perfectly and Bernstein gave him kudos with an OK sign in his conducting pattern. As a teacher of many students of this age this gesture greatly affected me. I was very emotional and decided that I was going to meet Mr. Bernstein. We simply walked past all of the check-points where people had security passes and tickets to meet Leonard Bernstein. We had no such documentation and felt that our only hope was to march straight past the check-points. We walked up to his dressing room and knocked on the door. He called out to come in. We entered and there were about thirty people in the room. I waited in line and in a couple of minutes he talked to me. I told him that I was a teacher and how the day and concert had affected me especially because I was passionate about working with young people. He took my head in his hands and told me to keep doing what I was doing because I was doing very important work. I have NEVER forgotten a moment of this encounter. What a privilege!!

What a privilege indeed! And thank you so much for sharing that story with us! Mr. Bernstein was right, the thing that you are doing is very important and we are so proud and honoured to have you come to Vancouver and share your passion with us!

If you didn't get a chance to read the previous blog post "Bernstein - A compulsion to share!", now is the time to do so. Kathleen's story is living proof that Bernstein truly believed in education and people!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Take the Lenny Quiz!

Okay time for a bit of brain teasing! Grab a pen and paper, and when you are ready start the clip... test your musical knowledge and see how many of the questions you can answer correctly!

Let us know how many you got correct by leaving a comment below!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tahiti-toids! Indulge your mind...

We thought it was time for a few little factoids, or "Tahiti-toids" as we like to call them, about the show.

Trouble in Tahiti is a one-act opera in seven scenes composed by Leonard Bernstein with an English libretto by the composer. The opera received its first performance on 12 June 1952 at Berstein's Festival of the Creative Arts on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to an audience of nearly 3,000 people. The work is about 40 minutes long. The NBC Opera Theatre subsequently presented the opera on television in November 1952; a production which marked mezzo-soprano Beverly Wolff's professional debut in the role of Dinah. Wolff later reprised the role in the New York City Opera's first staging of the work in 1958. Bernstein's later opera, A Quiet Place (1983), incorporates Trouble in Tahiti in the form of an extended flashback, and both versions are regularly performed worldwide. (Source: Wikipedia)

Premiere:      6/12/1952
                      Waltham, Massachusetts
                      Elliot Silverstein
                      Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
                      Company: Brandeis University

Moods:          Comic, Romantic

Subjects:       Contemporary, Relationships, Society

Style:             Musically, Bernstein indulges in many of the styles he is most recognized for. The heroine's first aria has a wistful melancholy reminiscent of Aaron Copland's earlier vernacular works and of Bernstein's later writing in West Side Story, while the jazzy interludes harken back to the score Bernstein wrote for On the Town.

Vernacular:    Bernstein tried to make his opera as real as possible. He wanted everything about it to be believable. He even went to great lengths to write in language that would be heard in everyday speech during that time. “All the music [in Trouble in Tahiti] derives from American vernacular roots, as do the words. And the words are very carefully set so that they will sound in the American cadence and with the American kind of syncopated, almost slurred quality”.

Inspiration:    While it was rumoured that the troubled young couple was based on Leonard Bernstein himself and his new bride, Felicia Monealegre, there is another, perhaps more plausible, theory that the story is based on the relationship of Bernstein’s own mother and father.

Do you know any interesting facts about Bernstein or Trouble in Tahiti? If so, we'd love for you to let us know! Simply leave a comment below!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cast Corner: The Fabulous Katherine Landry

We are so excited to have the fabulous Katherine Landry filling out our trio for Trouble in Tahiti. Here is some interesting tid-bits she had to share with us.

Q: Vancouver Concert Opera Co-Operative is a "Concert Opera Company" what do you think the advantage is of branching into the staged world of the Fringe Festival?

A: Opera is meant to be a 'complete' art form: not only heard but seen as well. This is an opportunity for us to go beyond great music and provide audiences with a truly theatrical experience.

Q: We are the first opera at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, do you think that opera can be a regular part of the Fringe Festival? If so what other operas do you think might fit in well with the regular Fringe crowd?

A: I hope opera will become a regular addition to the Fringe! I recently performed in one of a series of short operas premiered in a salon style setting called "The Opera Project". This was an opportunity for local composers to try their hand at opera for the first time in a condensed setting. These short works were outstanding and I think the Fringe would be perfect for further experiments!

Q: One last question, what is the most bizarre thing you've done or seen on stage?

A: I suppose this isn't really so bizarre as funny. I was in the chorus for the first time with Vancouver opera for their last production of Aida in 2002. One evening I was waiting in the wings for my 'Ethiopian Slave' entrance and we heard laughter and light applause from the audience. As we were shoved out on stage by the 'soldiers', I saw the tenor trying not to laugh as he looked up stage towards us. Apparently the horse he rode in on had decided to poo right there on the stage - luckily a costumed supernumary was on hand to sweep it up before we slaves made our entrance and had to kneel in it!

Make sure you check back tomorrow for our fun and unusual TAHITI-TOIDS!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bernstein - A compulsion to share!

One of the great things about performing a work from a 20th Century composer is all of the little tidbits of information that are available out there on the world wide web. Below are a few clips we thought you would enjoy!

This first clip we stumbled across is from an interview in which Bernstein briefly discusses his "love for people" and "compulsion to share".

It is abundantly clear from the next two clips that Bernstein was committed to sharing and education. He was not only a prolific composer, but a renowned conductor and was committed to sharing his own experiences with young conductors about art, music, and the relationship between the two, along with exploring the relationship of "self" with "the arts", and being one's best possible "self"!

When one considers Bernstein's dedication towards self and the arts it is not hard to consider that the inspiration for Trouble in Tahiti may have been a personal one. While it was rumoured that the troubled young couple was based on Leonard Bernstein himself and his new bride, Felicia Monealegre, there is another, perhaps more plausible, theory that the story is based on the relationship of Bernstein’s own mother and father. Perhaps Bernstein was giving us a personal view into his own life story!

We hope you enjoyed these little clips! Stay tuned for the Lenny Quiz!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cast Corner - Ed Moran (Baritone) on Trouble in Tahiti

Baritone Ed Moran will sing the role of Sam in our upcoming production of Trouble in Tahiti. As one of the show's Co-Producers we thought you might find it interesting to hear some of his thoughts on the show and what his experience has been thus far as a Co-Producer.

Q: What excites you most about this show?

A: I performed in this show a hundred years ago during my undergrad at the University of Alaska and believe it or not I actually sang the Tenor part in the trio. Trouble in Tahiti was the first Opera I was ever in and it has excited me ever since. The music is stunning particularly because of the juxtaposition of the trio, which is very jazzy, against the two main characters Sam and Dinah who sing with a very operatic lyricism. The interaction between Sam and Dinah is very exciting and yet also very puzzling to me. At times I look at them and think, they really do love each other they just argue like any other couple, then at other times wonder, how are these two still together? I guess because I am an optimist, I look for the happy ending in this show and see the drama as just an average day in the life of Sam and Dinah.

Q: Is there a defining moment in your life when you decided that Opera was your lifes calling.

A: Yes, very much so. While I was in my undergrad at U.A.A. I began to sing in the Chorus with Anchorage Opera. My second or third show with them was Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. In this production the scene just before the ball took place in front of the curtain. While this was happening the chorus, in all of their fanciest ball costumes, took the stage behind the curtain. As the curtain swiftly rose, the entire Chorus took two giant steps directly towards the audience. At this precise moment there was an audible gasp from the audience and the energy that ensued gave me goosebumps. Later on in the act, after Renato had be assassinated, I had the good fortune of being placed very close to the front of the stage. Each night I could look past the "4th wall" and see the audience sobbing in their seats. I decided at this moment that this would be my path. I absolutely adore that I get to take people away from their own world for a few hours and bring them into a world of beautiful music and drama. There isn't anything better for me on this earth.

Q: Can you give us a little sneak peak of what your show is going to look like?

A: Well... I suppose I can give you just a little sneak peak...  I really wanted to show how Sam and Dinah's life together (or at least this particular day in it) is shallow and one dimensional. For this reason we are playing around with silhouette's. The scenes with Sam or Dinah will be projected onto a flat surface and everything with be as deadpan and flat as possible. To experience the entire vision you will simply have to come and see the show.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cast Corner - Paul Just (Tenor) on Tahiti and Opera

Tenor Paul Just was next on our list to catch up with. Here are a few interesting tid-bits about our Trio Man #1.

Q: What excites you about this opera?

A: For me, this opera walks that very fine line between musical theatre and opera. It has all those exciting syncopated and jazzy rhythms and crunchy, yet satisfying chords that you find in the musical theatre of this era, but the arching, grandiose lines that you so often associate with opera are found here, as well; most often heard in the scenes with Dinah. The juxtaposition of the two very distinctive styles is blended wholly and so very organically by Bernstein. It can satisfy the palate of most any music-theatre goer.

Q: Tell us about your first experience with Opera.

A: My first experience hearing an opera was when I was two when my father would play Minnesota Public Radio for me when they laid me down to sleep in my crib. Even as a two year old, I still have memories of laying in my crib and hearing the first chords of Bizet's CARMEN and my parents told me that I didn't fall asleep until the final chords of the opera. That should have been a telling factor about my choice of career. Fast forward to my first year of university when I was cast as Ben Budge in Benjamin Britten's re-imagining of John Gay's THE BEGGAR'S OPERA. It was a great show. Lots of good, fun, rollicking music for the Men of the Road. Britten has never been my favorite composer to sing or listen to, but his re-working of this opera opened my mind to him, if only a little. But, being on the stage, working as a unit with fellow-singers, a conductor, orchestra - it was something that I never forgot and I love it today as much as I did then. Well, perhaps a little more.

Keep checking back to hear more news and info about our upcoming performances of Trouble in Tahiti as part of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.