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Vancouver Opera general director James Wright at the VO offices on Feb. 6, 2013. Mr. Wright is facing challenges familiar to any classical arts organization: how to keep the seats – and the coffers – filled. (Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail)
Vancouver Opera general director James Wright at the VO offices on Feb. 6, 2013. Mr. Wright is facing challenges familiar to any classical arts organization: how to keep the seats – and the coffers – filled. (Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail)

Vancouver Opera looks for new stages Add to ...

Vancouver Opera is going to be singing outside the box, announcing a new long-term strategy that will see opera performed in new venues, reallocating “a significant portion” of the company’s resources to programming outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the company’s traditional venue.

The idea is to broaden and deepen its connection with the communities it serves while building a new generation of operagoers, the company says.

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“It’s not a total reinvention, but it’s a re-envisioning of what an opera company needs to be in the 21st century,” VO General Director James Wright said Tuesday.

“We want to reach more people in more venues and new people in different venues while continuing to serve our traditional opera audience,” he said. “We are still Vancouver Opera, we will always be Vancouver Opera, we will do great grand opera in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, but we want to find other venues, we want to get closer to where people are and where they live and other venues they’re used to.”

Next fall the VO commission Stickboy, a chamber opera with libretto written by spoken word poet Shane Koyczan, will have its world premiere at the Vancouver Playhouse – a smaller venue next door to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The new strategy will also see new programming offered in communities south of the Fraser River beginning this spring. A new program, called Opera Trains, will see the company’s young artists travel to the suburbs of Surrey and Richmond (initially) to perform popular works for new audiences, who will be offered other incentives – such as discounts on opera productions at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and roundtrip SkyTrain fares to get them there and back.

“The goal is to attract new folks to the opera that may not have attended because of unfamiliarity,” says Mr. Wright.

The company also announced its 2014-15 season on Tuesday, which will open with Bizet’s Carmen, and will also include Strauss’s Die Fledermaus and a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.

The company says its plans for 2015-16 and beyond include full-scale productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Puccini’s Turandot and Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, as well as the Canadian premiere of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen – which will be the first opera produced in Canada to be sung entirely in Mandarin (with English surtitles).

“We want to reflect the innovation of Vancouver and we want to continue innovating in ways that we have,” said Wright, citing VO commissions Naomi’s Road and Lillian Alling and VO productions of Nixon in China and the First Nations themed production of The Magic Flute.

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