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!