Two dazzling new opera productions are at the core of the second annual Vancouver Opera Festival, April 28 to May 6, 2018.


Under the banner of the Russian White Nights, the second annual Vancouver Opera Festival celebrates Russia’s luminous midsummer “white nights” with Eugene Onegin – a beloved Russian lyric opera, and the much-anticipated premiere of The Overcoat – a musical tailoring an opera inspired by a contemporary theatre masterpiece. The Festival will also include Requiem for a Lost Girl – an original chamber musical collaboration that explores themes around homelessness.


To kick off the Russian White Nights Vancouver Opera Festival, everyone is invited to a day dedicated to Russian Arts, Music, Food, and Culture.  Food trucks, circus and street performers, pre and post-show projections will be capped off with a big-screen presentation on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza. The nine-day Festival also proposes an intimate series of instrumental and vocal chamber music concerts featuring musicians from the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and invited guests. There is programming as well for the entire family including Prokofiev’s much-loved Peter and the Wolf. During the weekends, enjoy the ever-popular Opera Bar – a chance to socialize with performers and artists, complete with DJ performances, and much more.


Venues: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, Orpheum Theatre, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts,  SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, CBC Studio 700, The Post at 750, Vancity Theatre and on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza

Tickets and passes: VO Ticket Centre 604-683-0222 or online at vancouveropera.ca

The 2017-2018 Vancouver Opera Season Sponsor is Goldcorp.
The 2017-2018 Vancouver Opera Festival is presented by BMO
The Vancouver Opera Honorary Festival Patron is Martha Lou Henley, C.M.
Vancouver Opera has the continuing support of The Canada Council for the Arts, Canada Heritage, the BC Arts Council and BC Provincial Government, the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Civic Theatres.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of Russian lyric opera, Eugene Onegin, will be presented at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and features Russian baritone Konstantin Shushakov as Onegin. Soprano Svetlana Aksenova sings Tatiana, and tenor Alexey Dolgov makes his VO debut in the role of Lensky. This new production has been created in collaboration with Calgary Opera and is directed by Tom Diamond.  The Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Chorus will be conducted by Jonathan Darlington. This production is sponsored by Blakes, Cassels & Graydon LLP.


James Rolfe’s The Overcoat – a musical tailoring, a collaboration with Toronto’s Canadian Stage Company and Tapestry Opera and inspired by the 1998 smash-hit play of the same name, fills the stage of the intimate Vancouver Playhouse.  Morris Panych returns to direct this new operatic reinterpretation of his original play set to music by James Rolfe. Leslie Dala conducts. This production is sponsored by The McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund.


The Vancouver Opera Festival will also feature Requiem for a Lost Girl, a powerful chamber musical about homelessness written and directed by Onalea Gilbertson and conducted and composed by Marcel Bergmann. This powerful work will be performed by members of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Chorus, with performances and material by participants from The Kettle Society – an organization that supports people with mental illness to lead better lives.


A number of special events take place throughout the nine days. The Festival will kick off on April 28 with a full day of all things Russian, including street performers, projections, food trucks and a big screen presentation on the Queen Elizabeth Plaza. On May 1, Vancouver Opera celebrates Jonathan Darlington’s fifteen-year tenure as Music Director with a special evening of music, entitled From Russia with Love to Jonathan DarlingtonA Russian Songfest on May 2features outstanding young opera singers from the Vancouver Opera training programs. On our closing day May 6, Vancouver Opera, in collaboration with Early Music Vancouver and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, presents an afternoon of Russian baroque music– Russian White Nights: Opera Arias from 18th century St. Petersburg, featuring soprano Karina Gauvin, at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts.


An original series of short chamber music concerts featuring Russian composers, and Russian inspired artists, performed by members of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and invited guests, will take place at CBC Studio 700.


Rounding out this nine-day Russian-themed festival are numerous additional panel discussions, talks, keynote speakers, community events, the return of the ever-popular Opera Bar, a full day dedicated to families on May 5 including Prokofiev’s much-loved Peter and the Wolf, and much more.


Kim Gaynor, VO’s General Director, says, “This year’s festival is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the sounds of Russia across the ages. We have streamlined our Festival compared to last year, and curated nine days of music and other activities for opera lovers and the simply curious. We invite audiences new and old and from near and far, to participate.”





Eugene Onegin, By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Sunday, April 29, 2:00pm

Thursday, May 3, 7:30pm

Saturday, May 5, 7:30pm

VO’s Music Director Jonathan Darlington conducts the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Vancouver Opera Chorus in a powerful new production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with Libretto by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and KS Shilovsky after Pushkin.  A co-production with Calgary Opera, this timeless and emotional story of ill-fated love is based upon the plot of Alexander Pushkin’s classic verse novel and features breathtaking music, choreography, lavish orchestrations, and compelling arias.  Celebrated Canadian director Tom Diamond, a veteran of Pacific Opera Victoria, Canadian Opera Company, Tapestry Opera, and Broadway (Squonk, 1999), directs. Calgary-based Scott Reid has designed this new production which premiered in Calgary on February 3, 2018.

Eugene Onegin features a Russian cast of stars led by Russian baritone Konstantin Shushakov, who makes his Vancouver Opera debut in the title role of Eugene Onegin.  A soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre (Cosi fan tutte, 2017, Le nozze di Figaro, 2017, La bohème, 2016), he previously played the role at Theatro Municipal de São Paulo (2015) and Maribor Slovene National Theatre (2013). He is joined by internationally acclaimed soprano Svetlana Aksenova (The Queen of Spades, 2016, Rusalka, 2015) in the role of Tatiana, which she previously performed with Shushakov in Brazil in 2015, and at Dallas Opera in 2016. Tenor Alexey Dolgov makes his VO debut in the role of Lensky, which he has previously sung at the Bolshoi (2010), The Metropolitan Opera (2017), and Münchner Opernfestspiele (2015). Mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule – who will be familiar to VO audiences as Maddalena in Rigoletto (2015) – sings the role of Olga while bass Goderdzi Janelidze also of the Bolshoi (Rigoletto, 2018, Don Carlo, 2017, La Traviata, 2017) rounds out the cast as Prince Gremin.

Eugene Onegin will be sung in Russian with English SURTITLES™.

This production is generously sponsored by Blakes, Cassels & Graydon LLP.


The Overcoat – a musical tailoring, By James Rolfe

Vancouver Playhouse

Saturday, April 28, 7:30pm
Sunday, April 29, 7:30pm

Wednesday, May 2, 2:00pm

Friday, May 4, 7:30pm

Saturday, May 5, 2:00pm

Sunday, May 6, 2:00pm

Plus 4 post-Festival performances:

May 9, 10, 11, 12 at 7:30pm

A groundbreaking new co-production with Toronto’s Canadian Stage Company and Tapestry Opera. Canadian composer James Rolfe’s The Overcoat – a musical tailoring runs throughout the Festival, with post-Festival performances. Leslie Dala conducts members of the VO Orchestra in this production, with sets designed by award-winning designer Ken MacDonald, costumes by Nancy Bryant, and lighting design by Alan Brodie. Initially based on an 1842 short story by Russian author Nikolai Gogol in which an office worker has his life turned upside down when he’s robbed of his new overcoat, The Overcoat was transformed into a physical theatre production in 1998 by Morris Panych and Wendy Gorling. Morris Panych returns to craft this new opera as librettist and director at the Vancouver Playhouse where the original creation premiered 20 years ago.

Baritone Geoffrey Sirett sings the role of Akakiy, and Saskatchewan-born baritone Peter McGillivray is Petrovich.  Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program Alumni Caitlin Wood and Aaron Durand join the all Canadian cast.

The Overcoat – a musical tailoring will be sung in English with English SURTITLES™.

This production is generously sponsored by The McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund.


Requiem for a Lost Girl: A chamber musical about homelessness

Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre

SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 W Hastings Street)

Friday, May 4 at 7:30pm

Sunday May 6, at 2:00pm

The Vancouver Opera Festival will also feature Requiem for a Lost Girl, a powerful chamber musical written and directed by Onalea Gilbertson. The work, composed by and conducted by Marcel Bergmann includes additional music by the Kettle Choir and the Kettle Writers Guild. The work will be performed by members of the Vancouver Opera Chorus and Orchestra and the Kettle Choir and Kettle Writers Guild. Exploring themes of homelessness, poverty, mental illness, addiction and the plight of missing and murdered women – this strikingly original chamber work unfolds as a memorial service for a young woman lost to the street.

This production is presented in partnership with The Kettle Society and SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs.



Russian White Nights Opening Festivities- April 28
To kick off the Russian White Nights Vancouver Opera Festival in style, everyone is invited to a day dedicated to Russian Arts, Music, Food, and Culture. Food trucks, Russian cultural performers, and daytime market vendors in partnership with Russian Theatre Palme, and a spectacular circus presentation, movie screening, an outdoor patio bar, and pre and post-show projections will be part of this lively celebration.

The White Nights is the name given in areas of high latitude to the weeks around the summer solstice in June when darkness is never complete. The most spectacular public event during the White Nights Festival is the arrival of the Scarlet Sails schooner. VO has partnered with local circus professionals, CircusWest, to stage theScarlet Sails love story–a tale about dreams, hope and faith–on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza. A specially created 40-foot long red schooner will serve as the stage for the dynamic circus entertainers performing gravity-defying acrobatic feats. Custom designed projections will be displayed on its 22-foot tall sails and music will also be featured in a performance for all ages.

The day is capped off with a big-screen presentation of Man with a Movie Camera, a unique vintage Russian silent film, on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza – complete with movie snacks and drinks in our Happy Hour Patio Bar. Admission is free.  Man with a Movie Camera is presented in partnership with the Vancouver International Film Festival. (Saturday, April 28 from 2pm, Russian Cultural performances 2pm-6pm, Scarlet Sails Performances at 6:15pm and 7:30pm, Man with a Movie Camera screening at 8pm, Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza)

Additional Scarlet Sails Performances throughout the Festival
The Scarlet Sails schooner will remain on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza throughout the festival, and CircusWest offering this unique circus experience for those who miss it on opening night. (Sunday, April 29 at 12:45-1:45pm; Thursday, May 3 at 6:15-6:45pm; Saturday, May 5 at 6:15-6:45pm; Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza)

Happy Hour Patio Bar

Throughout the Festival, patrons can enjoy Happy Hour, a hub for socializing, light refreshments, alongside a small stage for performances. Exact times listed on website. (Saturday, April 28 to Saturday, May 5, afternoons and evenings at the Happy Hour Patio Bar, Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza)

Opera Bar

The sensational Opera Bar returns on weekends to the Vancouver Opera Festival as the go-to destination to socialize with performers and artists, complete with artist and DJ performances, as well as snacks from the hottest local food trucks at select times. Vancouver Opera and Faculty Brewing Co have collaborated to produce Bravo beer, an ISA that will be available exclusively at Faculty Brewing Co (1830 Ontario Street) in the weeks leading up to the Festival and at the Opera Bar throughout the Festival. (Saturday, April 28 to Saturday, May 5 – closed April 30 and May 2 – from 9pm-1am at the Opera Bar, Queen Elizabeth Theatre Salons)


From Russia with Love to Jonathan Darlington – May 1
To pay tribute to Jonathan Darlington’s extraordinary fifteen-year music-making partnership with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, join us for a special evening full of surprises, including Maestro Darlington at the piano and a special appearance by GOH ballet dancers. We will raise a toast to Maestro Darlington in the lobby after the performance! The performance will include “Two Pieces for 6 hands” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian arias performed by principals from Eugene Onegin, and Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale – Suite with violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. (Tuesday, May 1 at 7:30pm, Vancouver Playhouse)

A Russian Songfest – Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program and Young Artist Coaching Intensive Program Alumni Recital – May 2
An evening of musical riches featuring alumni of Vancouver Opera Training Programs performing a wide range of their favourite Russian songs accompanied by the music staff of Vancouver Opera. The programme for the evening will include “From Jewish Folk-Poetry Op. 70” by Dmitri Shostakovich, 3 songs by Modest Mussorgsky: “Mephistopheles Song of the Flea”, “Night”, and “The Seminarist”, “Romances Op. 38” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, 3 songs from “Petersburg, a vocal poem” by Gyorgy Svirodov: “The Breeze has brought from far away”, “Petersburg song”, and “The Virgin City”, and “Five Poems of Akhmatova” by Sergei Prokofiev. (Wednesday, May 2 at 7:30pm, Vancouver Playhouse)

Russian White Nights: Opera Arias from 18th century St. Petersburg, Featuring Soprano Karina Gauvin – May 6
Hear the world’s reigning soprano in Baroque and classical repertoire– Karina Gauvin–for a programme of virtuosic opera arias from 18th century St. Petersburg. Concert presented in partnership with Early Music Vancouver. Tickets at bit.ly/KG-RussianWhiteNights  or by phone at 604-822-2697. (Sunday, May 6 at 3pm, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts)


Screening of The Overcoat (2001)
A presentation of the CBC film of Morris Panych’s original iteration of The Overcoat is followed by a talkback featuring a panel of artists including movement artist Wendy Gorling and composer James Rolfe. (Sunday, April 29 at 2:30pm, Vancouver Playhouse)

Doctor Zhivago Screening (1965)
A screening of Doctor Zhivago, the epic love story released in 1965, set amidst the backdrop of the Russian Revolution.  Presented in partnership with the Vancouver International Film Festival. Tickets are $15, or $13 for current VIFF annual membership holders, and are available online through VIFF.ORG. Discounts are available for seniors and students.  (Tuesday, May 1 at 6:45pm, Vancity Theatre)



Five short concerts at CBC Studio 700, celebrating Russian, and Russian inspired, instrumental and vocal chamber music. All concerts begin at 5pm and are approximately 50 minutes in length. Curated by Leslie Dala and featuring singers from the casts of Eugene Onegin & The Overcoat – a musical tailoring and instrumentalists from the Vancouver Opera Orchestra.

A Musical Tribute to Anna Akhmatova, Celebrated Russian Poet – April 28
Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966) was one of the most significant Russian poets of the 20th century. Step into an intimate salon concert featuring poems by Anna Akhmatova set to music by John Tavener and Sergei Prokofiev including poetry readings. The programme will include “Five Poems of Akhmatova” for soprano and piano, “Akhmatova Songs” for soprano and cello, and “Chetki” for soprano and piano. (Saturday, April 28 at 5pm, CBC Studio 700)

The Music of James Rolfe, Composer of The Overcoat—a musical tailoring – April 29
James Rolfe, acclaimed composer of the opera The Overcoat—a musical tailoring, has written a vast amount of chamber music both with and without voice. This opening concert features a selection of chamber music repertoire both vocal and instrumental, including “Beloved” for voice and piano, “The Connection” for solo marimba and recitation, “Moths” for baritone and piano, and “Simon & Garfunkel & The Prophets of Rage” for voice, percussion, and piano. (Sunday, April 29 at 5pm, CBC Studio 700)

Tchaikovsky and the Great Russian Composers – May 3
A sampling of Tchaikovsky’s extensive chamber music repertoire for voice and that of his contemporaries including Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich’s “Spanish Songs” Op. 100, and Mussorgsky. Featuring singers from the cast of The Overcoat—a musical tailoring. (Thursday, May 3 at 5pm, CBC Studio 700)

A Study in Contrasts: The Music of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich – May 4
Featuring the Rachmaninoff Romances Op 38 for soprano and piano and “From Jewish Folk-Poetry” Op. 70 by Shostakovich for soprano, contralto, tenor, and piano. (Friday, May 4 at 5pm, CBC Studio 700)

Russian Piano Music –May 5
Featuring the electrifying duo pianists Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann performing Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Marcel Bergmann’s Echoes of Tchaikovsky inspired by the operas of Tchaikovsky, including Eugene Onegin. (Saturday, May 5 at 5pm, CBC Studio 700)



The Vancouver Opera Festival continues its tradition of student and family events, from Family Day to student-oriented Opera Experience and Dress Rehearsals.Bring the whole family for a day of fun and music at Family Day on Saturday, May 5 at the Vancouver Playhouse. Suitable for ages 4+.


Family Day at the Vancouver Playhouse
The Playhouse comes alive with activities for young listeners, including theatre tours and art activities. Bring the whole family for a day of fun and music. Admission is free. Suitable for ages 4+. (Saturday, May 5 from 9:30am, Vancouver Playhouse Lobby and Exterior)

Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf
Leslie Dala conducts this delightfully entertaining performance for young audiences which introduces listeners to the various instruments and sections of the orchestra. Narrated by Shannon Chan-Kent from My Little Pony and Beauty and the Beast (Arts Club). Suitable for ages 4+. (Saturday, May 5 at 10am and 11:30am, Vancouver Playhouse)

Where the Wild Things Are: Student Performance
VO and the Delta School District present the culmination of their work in the Delta School District’s innovative year-long Performance program for students in grades 8 through 12. Students will perform an original adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s much-beloved children’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are. Admission is free. Suitable for ages 6+. (Saturday, May 5 from 1-2pm, CBC Studio 700)

Family Day Performance of The Overcoat – a musical tailoring
A performance experience designed for families. The pre-show talk, led by VO Educators, will provide young audiences with information about the work and its creation. After the performance, families are welcome to meet the cast in the lobby. A Family Pack of tickets exclusive to this Family Day performance is available: Contact the ticket office for details. Suitable for children 9+. (Saturday, May 5 at 2:00pm, Vancouver Playhouse Lobby and Theatre)

Family Day Performance and Special Pre-show Talk for Teens at Eugene Onegin
The closing night performance of Eugene Onegin will include a pre-show talk designed for teens. Special youth tickets exclusive to this Family Day performance are available for those under the age of 19 for $19 (plus $5 processing fee) only by phone at 604-683-0222. (Saturday, May 5 at 6:30pm, Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Mezzanine)


Opera Experience
Secondary school classes from across British Columbia and beyond can attend workshops with professional artists along with a backstage tour of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre or the Vancouver Playhouse, before attending a performance.  Registration is available by emailing cdugan@nullvancouveropera.ca or by phone at 604-331-4835, Tickets are $35 per student. (Various Dates/Times, Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse)

TD Student Dress Rehearsals
Teachers and music educators are invited to book for groups of students to see a working dress rehearsal for each of our Mainstage Operas before opening night!  Students will also have access to a Study Guide for each production downloadable from the VO Website.  Tickets are $15 per student.  (Various Dates/Times, Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse)



VO continues its long tradition of exploring opera’s music and stories, and of engaging audiences in discussing important contemporary issues which arise from the work it produces. The following are some of the highlights:

New Works Project
UBC student composers and writers collaborate with performers from the UBC Opera Program to create new chamber opera works. A chance to see the creative process in action, including four new scenes written and composed by students from the UBC School of Music and the UBC Creative Writing Program during the festival. Admission is free. (Wednesday, May 2 and 4 at 6pm, The Post at 750; Final performance Sunday, May 6 at 11:30am, Vancouver Playhouse)

Preview Talks
Free to opera ticket-holders, these lively and informative free 30-minute talks by VO experts prepare audiences for the performance, with insights into the story, the creators, the music and the production. One hour before curtain at each performance. (Queen Elizabeth Theatre, mezzanine level; Vancouver Playhouse, upper lobby).

Elements: An Arts Umbrella Exhibition
Exhibition of visual art from senior students in the Arts Umbrella Advanced Visual Arts classes. Free with admission to Vancouver Playhouse performances. (Saturday, April 29-Saturday, May 12, Vancouver Playhouse Lobby)



A series of free informative conversations around the productions and themes of the second annual Vancouver Opera Festival.

Opera Speaks: Russian Arts and Culture
Education sessions led by Russian cultural leaders discuss the Russian music and arts featured during the festival. (Saturday, April 28 at 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

Opera Speaks: Creating collaborative work alongside marginalized communities
Featuring the artistic team behind Requiem For A Lost Girl, this workshop explores the challenges and successes of collaborative art making. The workshop is an opportunity to bring together voices from across the industry to share the impact of this work on all who participate. Admission is free. (Sunday, April 29 from 10-12pm, SFU Woodward’s)

Opera Speaks: Creating opportunities for women in opera
Female composers, librettists and directors rarely feature in the seasons of the major opera houses across North America. This panel of industry experts will lead a conversation about what needs to change in order to raise the profile of female artists. (Wednesday, May 2 at 5pm, The Post at 750)

Opera Speaks: What role does the arts play in addressing homelessness?
Billy Guinness and Rhoda Rosen (Red Line Services, Chicago IL) are the keynote speakers in this community forum about the impact of the arts on those experiencing homelessness. (Wednesday, May 2 at 7pm, SFU Woodward’s)



Patrons who purchase a ticket to both Eugene Onegin and The Overcoat- a musical tailoring will automatically qualify for Festival Pass prices and benefits, including 10% off select ticketed Festival events, reserved VIP seating at select events, a commemorative Vancouver Opera Festival Poster, a limited edition All Access VIP Pass and Lanyard, All Access Backstage Tours of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Participants can sign up online or by phone, or unlock special Festival Pass prices to selected events. Find out more at vancouveropera.ca or by calling the VO Ticket Centre at 604-683-0222.


Details, programming and casting are subject to change.


Featured image: Lara Ciekiewicz as Tatyana Courtesy Calgary Opera Photo by Trudie Lee

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