Vancouver Opera puts on multiple mainstage shows each year and is regarded as one of the finest opera orchestra companies in Canada.
Productions lined up for 2024 include Don Pasquale by Donizetti (February 10th to 18th) and Carmen by Bizet (April 27th to May 5th).
For tickets and to learn more about the opera and its shows, visit vancouveropera.ca.
This article contains the following information about Vancouver Opera:
The Vancouver Opera Company
Vancouver Opera is the second biggest opera company in Canada, the first being the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. Vancouver Opera started in 1958 and has since grown into one of the premier performing arts organizations of any kind in both the Lower Mainland and in Canada.
For the most part, all of the mainstage productions for Vancouver Opera are held at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The theatre is located at 630 Hamilton Street downtown and seats nearly 3,000 people.
In addition to the standard performances, Vancouver Opera also runs various other programs. There is Vancouver Opera in Schools which tours throughout BC with professional quality opera performances for students. As well, there are summer camps and other youth programs on offer.
For tickets and the company’s official website see vancouveropera.ca.
What to Expect
Vancouver Opera puts on three different productions most years. They are usually in Italian, but sometimes French. Occasionally there is a production in English. The shows involve operatic singing (of course), and beautiful costumes and sets.
Regardless of the language of the performance, there are English surtitles (like subtitles or closed caption text) projected on a small screen above the theatre’s stage. This is very helpful, especially when the singing is in a language you don’t understand.
At productions by Vancouver Opera, expect the singing to be amazing! They are an exceptional opera company and Vancouver is very lucky to have them!
There is usually an intermission of 25 or so minutes in the middle of each performance, but also a pre-show talk before and a post-show talk after. Both of the talks are short and very interesting. We recommend them, especially if you are new to opera.
The pre-show talk lasts for about 15 minutes or so. Two speakers provide background to the show and describe its history. It usually takes place upstairs in the Mezzanine an hour before the main performance begins.
The post-show talk takes place shortly after the opera’s finale, after most of the audience has left the auditorium. Those who wish can stay and go down to the seats at the front of the stage. The main actors come out and are interviewed. Audience members are also invited to ask questions.
The 2023/24 Season
Performances in the 2023/24 season include The Magic Flute by Mozart, Don Pasquale by Donizetti and Carmen by Bizet.
- The Magic Flute – is an opera played to Mozart’s music and is told as a fairytale within a fairytale. The opera is sung in German with English surtitles projected. The story unfolds at a garden party in 1791. Here a performance of Magic Flute is played out. The story tells of Tamino who, armed with an enchanted instrument, rescues the kidnapped Princess Pamina. The two face difficulties including from Pamina’s angry mother, the vengeful Queen of the Night. However, in the end, the pair overcome their obstacles and begin a new life together. Performances took place at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 21st, 26th, 28th and 29th in 2023.
- Don Pasquale – this comic opera is sung in Italian with English surtitles projected and is played to Gaetano Donizetti’s music. It tells the story of Don Pasquale, an ageing bachelor who plots to marry and then disinherit his rebellious nephew Ernesto. But his scheme is thwarted by Ernesto’s love, Norina. The opera plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 10th, 15th and 18th in 2024.
- Carmen – a world-famous opera sung in French with English surtitles projected, it plays to Georges Bizet’s music. This opera tells the story of the conflicting worlds and failed love of the sensual, rebellious Carmen and the possessive military man Don José. The show plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 27th and 28th of 2024 and then again on May 2nd, 4th and 5th in 2024.
The 2022/23 Season
Vancouver Opera had three shows scheduled for the 2022/23 season. They were The Pearl Fishers, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and the Flying Dutchman.
- The Pearl Fishers Opera – an opera by the French composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875) who is also famous for the opera Carmen. The story takes place in ancient Ceylon which is present-day Sri Lanka. It’s about two friends who fall in love with the same woman. This opera was in French with English surtitles (where the English words were projected on a screen above the stage). Performances took place at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 22nd, 27th and 30th in 2022.
- A Midsummer’s Night Dream Opera – the famous comedy by William Shakespeare. It’s set in ancient Athens. The show’s dates were February 11th, 16th and 19th in 2023.
- The Flying Dutchman Opera – a German opera with music by Richard Wagner. The story takes place on a ship off the coast of Norway. Dates for the performances in 2023 were April 29th and May 4th and 7th.
The 2021/22 Season
The pandemic put a stop to live performances for over a year, but Vancouver Opera was able to return to the stage for its 2021/22 season. There were three productions last season, all of which were held at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
- Orfeo Ed Euridice – this show is based on the Greek myth of Orfeo, a musician who played so beautifully that he charmed the gods of the underworld in a bid to bring his lover back from the dead. (December 4th & 5th, 2021.)
- Cavalleria Rusticana in Concert – this opera is just one act long and is considered one of the Italian classics, written back in the late 19th century. (February 12th & 13th, 2022.)
- HMS Pinafore – a comedic show with a lot of energy and fun as it delivers satire and over-the-top characters in a story of forbidden love. (April 30th and May 5th, 7th & 8th, 2022.)
In addition to the above, Vancouver Opera also hosted a free outdoor concert on Sunday, July 17th, 2022. It took place at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby. The event also featured family-friendly activities including an orchestra petting zoo, costumed entertainers and balloon twisting and face painting stations.
Vancouver Opera Festival
In 2017 Vancouver Opera launched the first annual Vancouver Opera Festival as an addition to its 2016/17 season. Unfortunately, the fourth edition of the festival, set for April of 2020, was cancelled due to the pandemic. It was also cancelled in 2021 and 2022. It doesn’t look like it happened in 2023 either. Hopefully it’ll be back in the future!
When it’s able to take place, the festival adds two more mainstage productions along with plenty of other events in a celebration of opera that lasts for a week or two. Along with the shows there are guest speaker lectures, family-friendly activities, panel discussions and more.
Vancouver Opera in Schools and Other Programs
Vancouver Opera in Schools provides professional opera performances in schools throughout BC. It stands as one of the biggest programs of its kind in the country. These shows are sung in English (as opposed to Italian or French like the mainstage productions) and serve as a way to help introduce students to opera as an art form.
Vancouver Opera also offers specific programs for youth of various school ages. There is Project Opera for elementary students which offers teachers different ways to bring in Vancouver Opera artists to their classrooms. There are also mentorship programs for high school students and summer camps run out of the Trout Lake Community Centre. The camps are for children ages 8 to 13 who eventually create and perform their own mini-operas.
Finally, there are programs for adults as well like Opera 101. This is a five-part course taught over Zoom that serves as an introduction to the history and modern world of opera.
Tips and Advice
Below are some suggestions and extra information to help you make the most out of your opera experience.
Things to Know In Advance
TIP #1: Arrive early. Don’t risk arriving late because of traffic!
TIP #2: Consider joining the pre-show talk before the main performance begins, especially if you are new to opera or not familiar with the particular production. The background information is very interesting and can be helpful in understanding the story.
TIP #3: Except for the fact that you have to look up extra high to see the screen with the surtitles, the best seats in the house, arguably, in our opinion, are at the very front of the theatre, and in the middle of the auditorium. Here you can see the full stage, and the actors up close (which is a wonderful and amazing experience).
Things to Know about the Show
TIP #1: If the production is in Italian or French, and you aren’t fluent in either, and you aren’t already familiar with the story, consider reading up on it in advance (like on Wikipedia). This will help you understand and follow the story better and enhance your experience.
TIP #2: Don’t forget that the words of the singing are projected (in English) on a screen above the stage. Consequently, even if you don’t understand Italian, you can still understand the story and what the actors are singing. Even when the production is in English, the surtitles can still be helpful.
TIP #3: The surtitles are easy to see from pretty much everywhere in the theatre. If you plan to rely on them heavily, however, you might not want to sit in the first few rows, especially if you have a bad neck.
TIP #4: Photos and video are not permitted during the performance. At the very end, however, when the actors are taking their bows, the audience is invited to take out their cameras and phones to take pictures.
For more information about the company, visit the Vancouver Opera website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Choirs and Music Organizations
- VAM Symphony Orchestra
- Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
- Early Music Vancouver
- Vancouver Shows and Entertainment Calendar
- Entertainment in Vancouver