Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our love for Bizet!

Bizet has a very special place in our hearts here at VanCOCO.  Our very first performance was of Bizet's Carmen, and was a resounding success for us!  It began our journey of bringing a high level of opera to all of British Columbia.  The premiere performance had 3 of our 4 artists in the Tri-City Gala in lead roles, and all received glowing reviews for their performances.  

"Natalie Burdeny showed an enviable understanding of the title role in her portrayal of the nuanced vagaries of Carmen's personality.  Her Card Scene was particularly memorable… The delicate and pure soprano of Arianna Sovernigo made  for an exquisitely sung Micaela,
Arianna Sovernigo as Micaela and Natalie Burdeny as Carmen in our premiere performance in 2011
while baritone Andrew Greenwood, making his entrance striding down the centre aisle of the church, brought his past experience as Escamillo to create and assured portrayal that mesmerized the audience...  
Andrew Greenwood as Escamillo in our 2011 performance
Kudos to VanCOCO of a presentation of this caliber, rewarded by an audience that came to its feet with cheers at the conclusion."
Hilary Clark - Opera Canada Spring 2011

Not to be left out, our tenor Sunny Shams, has also performed the role of Don Jose to great acclaim as well and is also one of his dream roles.

Sunny Shams as Don José in Bizet's Carmen
Bizet died of a heart attack a mere 3 months after Carmen premiered and he never knew it’s immediate or lasting success.  Why do you think this opera speaks now and why is it so popular?

AG: Catchy tunes I think. I sang Escamillo in Prague, It's always fun to sing toreador. It's fun to fake the swagger and bravado.

NB: I think it's because it has the perfect amount of drama combined with memorable music. I can't think of anyone I've met, opera lover, opera hater, or doesn't know a thing about opera, who if you hummed the Habanera or the Torreador, they wouldn't recognize one of those tunes. In that regard, it's timeless.  Personally, it's the one and only opera, I can watch again, again, and again, without getting bored.

SS: I think because it has so many fantastic arias and ensembles in it. Bizet really captured the exoticism of Spain in his music, which is phenomenal considering he never went to Spain. It's also a very well written libretto.  It's a great sing, and it showcases the main leads really well.  You see the tension building, and the climax comes right at the end. it's great!  Such an epic ending too.

AS: Well, there's sex appeal, love and violence...the trilogy for todays movies.  It's a known story...who doesn't know what happens in Carmen...even if you have never seen an opera before.  I think opera is loved more when you understand it and since this opera is widely publicized and many references made elsewhere it keeps it's popularity...I doubt many would know the story of say Rita by Donizetti for instance.

David Boothroyd Piano. Recorded live in the Old Auditorium at UBC 2012. Photos from productions in Saint Eustache Montreal and Vancouver BC.

It’s often argued that Don José in Carmen is the protagonist in the opera because his character goes through more changes/development than Carmen (the so-called antagonist) because she remains static.  Thoughts?

NB: I disagree.  She does change.  She has never really loved anyone, but has always "used" people to get what she wants.  I think she really does fall in love with Escamillo, and these are new emotions for her, but true emotions.  Don Jose sees that, hence that’s why he goes a bit crazy! 

SS: I would agree with that. I also think that Don Jose is not a bad person, which many argue. I think he's a very inexperienced young man, who falls wholly in love, and believes in it, and gives up everything for Carmen because he is true to her and believes in his love for her.  He's so jealous because she means everything to him, and he can't bear to see that he's devoted himself to her, and she doesn't care. It's his love for her that drives him to kill her at the end because he can't bear the thought of her being with anyone else. He's just so full of desire for her he can't possibly imagine her being with anyone else. He's a good person led down a series of unfortunate events by his naivety and his love for Carmen.


We will be performing numerous selections from Bizet during our Tri-City Gala performances in Vancouver, White Rock, and Sechelt.  

Get your tickets TODAY at

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