Tuesday, November 9, 2010

James W. Wright Talks To Gig Magazine

News of VO's Lillian Alling, social media and education initiatives reached UK shores last month.

Assistant Editor Clare Wiley of Gig Magazine got to speak with General Director James W. Wright on the happenings at Vancouver Opera.

In October, the Vancouver Opera (VO) premiered Lillian Alling, a newly commissioned work by composer John Estacio and librettist John Murrell. During the upcoming season, the company will perform Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor,Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, and Verdi’s La Traviata.

"We want to do a post-World War II opera every year,"explains general director James W. Wright. "It’s a risk but it’s important to do more contemporary work."

This contemporary approach is consistent with how the opera markets itself, having invested time and effort in social media over the last couple of years."We were one of the first companies to employ a fulltime social media manager," says Wright. As well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter, the company provides blogs and podcasts for each production.The ‘Opera Live’ section of its website hosts videos of rehearsals, interviews and audience reaction. The site even includes manga comic strips representing each show. Wright reveals that the opera will soon be launching an online tool to allow people to see a view of the stage from the seat they’re planning to buy. He emphasises the importance of targeting spectators through new technology. "Our Facebook fans come at a reduced price and have a reception," he notes. "We want to show them that opera is still meaningful to their contemporary lives. We get people in the door and they tend to stick."

Wright observes, however, that while social media is valuable in terms of forging relationships and spreading the word, it will take time to judge its effectiveness in terms of sales. "We want to continue pushing the social media envelope as much as we can," he says."It’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t work but if you stuck your head in the door you would be pleased to see it’s by no means all grey hair."

Working with an annual budget of CA$9.5m (€6.7m), another driving force of the VO is its educational work,providing five separate schemes for students across British Columbia. One of these is Music! Words! Opera!, a programme that provides free training for teachers to produce an opera with their students who come up with a story and music, as well as design the set. According to Wright, this particular project is very popular, reaching children in around 23 schools. Wright says the VO would like to develop projects for high schools, where the schemes attract fewer pupils. "We work in certain high schools but we don’t reach the numbers we’d like to," he says.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Saying Goodbye To Lillian Alling

Sets have been struck and costumes put away. Trucks have been loaded and driven to storage.

As we prep for the upcoming Lucia di Lammermoor, we're officially saying good-bye to Lillian Alling.

And although Lillian Alling has come and gone, we'll always have pictures of all the shiny happy faces to remind us of what a grand experience it all was.

Thank you to everyone who came out and made our world premiere such a success! We couldn't have done it without you!

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giving You More Access

When you come to Lillian Alling, you may notice a sign in the theatre lobby with 4 QR codes. You may also come across these codes while at your seat, flipping through the house program.

So what's behind these 4 QR codes?

Once scanned with a Smartphone, theatre patrons would be directed to personal video messages from General Director James W. Wright, Lillian Alling librettist John Murrell, composer John Estacio, Director of Production Terry Harper and soprano Frédérique Vézina.

For those who don't have Smartphones, here are the videos:

Kinda like easter eggs in a DVD, but not quite so hidden, we hope these small features help enhance your experience at the opera.

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager

Lillian Alling Set Up In Time Lapse

Here's a neat little time-lapse video of the technical set up for Lillian Alling.

Video credit: Tom Wright, Director of Artistic Planning

Shot during tech week down at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, you can see the staging of props, the different visual projections, the blocking of lights and all the general craziness involved in bringing an opera to the stage.

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager

Lillian Alling: Final Thoughts

From left: Miranda Lievers, Frances Sprout, Stacey Robinsmith, Nik Belonio

A big thank you to our Bloggers who joined us for the Lillian Alling Blogger Night at the Opera. We were delighted to have you at our world premiere. Thank you for helping us to kick-start the 2010-2011 season in a big way.

So did our bloggers have a good time at Lillian Alling?

This opera, more than any other opera, perhaps because it is the world premiere, but this opera, had me literally on the edge of my seat right until the curtain dropped for the final time. - Stacey Robinsmith

To read more on Stacey's thoughts, click here and here.

All the singers were great. They sung to the top of their game. The highest highs and the lowest lows. Judith Forst is an older woman with a voice as strong as a young woman's. Her character, Irene's, story is achingly told through her eyes. And Frederique Vezina is a young woman from Montreal. She gave me chills with her high on pitch voice. Aaron St. Clair Nicholson did a wonderful job as Scotty. He was believable and touching. And Irene's son, Jimmy, played by Roger Honeywell, was a good counterpart to irene. A loud and barreling voice. - Nik Belonio

To read more on Nik's thoughts, click here.

Lillian Alling is a true Canadian production – commissioned by the Vancouver Opera and produced in conjunction with the Banff Centre, Lillian Alling is a show that takes place across North America. Not to be shy with their world premiere, the Vancouver Opera has pulled all stops to produce a contemporary opera that is both artistically and technically breathtaking. - Miranda Lievers

Wow! That was so stirring, not only the opera with its powerful music or the encompassing scenery, the huge visuals, the love stories and the mysteries revealed, but simply the notion that an opera can be made with the place names I know so well. I love imagining this opera being performed in other cities worldwide -- and Stanley Park and Telegraph Creek, the Skeena River and the Vancouver lights sung into that larger panorama. - Frances Sprout

To read more on Frances' thoughts, click here and here.

What a great start to the brand new season! We look forward to welcoming back our bloggers for the upcoming Lucia di Lammermoor. Stay tuned!

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Have You Checked Our QR Code Today?

Scan our QR code with your Smartphone for a Lillian Alling surprise.

You may need to download a reader for your Smartphone, so click to get your free app from Neo or Mobio.

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager

An Ambitious World Premiere At Vancouver Opera

Frédérique Vézina infuses the title role with an intriguing restlessness and confidently follows its varied emotional contours. She has the stamina needed for the sudden upswell of dramatic soprano writing in Lillian’s climactic act-two confession. Aaron St. Clair Nicholson’s mellifluous baritone blends bluster, tenderness, and devotion in his moving portrayal of Scotty, the link between the two stories. Among the other principals, tenor Colin Ainsworth stands out in his memorable cameo as the young Norwegian Kristian who is fired by Lillian’s adventurous example.

The most memorable performance comes from the venerable Judith Forst as the spirited but pained Irene. Hers is a tour de force of dramatic singing, finding nuance in the most offbeat phrase. As her son, Roger Honeywell is given far less musical characterization and is mostly a reactive character, but he invests the stirring quartet of disclosure in the final act with throbbing emotional honesty.

To read more from Crosscut, click here.