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Burnaby Lyric Opera at the Shadbolt

It might come as a surprise to most Burnaby residents, and visitors, that Burnaby has its own opera company. Opera is one of those things that we associate with giant historic theatres in New York and London, yet if you think about it, what is the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts but a future historic theatre? The programming at the Shadbolt is so diverse that we should never be surprised at what we find on the stage, from opera to dance to comedy.

The Burnaby Lyric Opera, a professional intermediate company, is one of those offerings. The company produces one fully-staged, costumed opera per year on top of a concert series called “Opera for a Sunday Afternoon” where they condense popular operas to 75 minutes of highlights. It’s a perfect marriage of full productions (offered with English surtitles) and little opera “bites”. If you’re wondering what the “professional intermediate” monicker refers to, the distinction comes from the fact that the BLO offers opportunities for young, emerging opera singers to perform in major operas in main roles. It is the perfect stepping stone between training programs and professional careers for many young singers, and they glean talent from the many local opera training programs, from UBC Opera to the Vancouver Opera Chorus. “The BLO is interested in nurturing BC talent and offering the opportunity to young opera singers to sing leading and secondary roles in opera”, says BLO Board President, Linda-Marie James. “The BLO is the ‘jumping off’ place between the universities and the music institutions as they move their careers forward toward singing in the larger opera houses.” The Opera on a Sunday Afternoon series is the perfect opportunity, then, not only for young singers to get the chance to sing highlights from some of their most beloved operas, but for everyone to add a little classical entertainment to their weekend, whether or not you’re a seasoned opera-goer. “The Sunday Afternoon Opera Concerts are a wonderful way to enjoy opera for not only the knowledgable opera goer, but the newcomer as well,” says James on the series. This past Sunday they offered highlights from Giacomo Puccini’s well-known opera La Bohème. “This beloved classic is one of the brightest stars in Puccini’s repertoire,” enthuses James, “a timeless tale of love, loss, deception, and heartbreak.” Because of their interest in nurturing young talent, patrons of the BLO will often see performers on the cusp of major professional careers. “We have seen many of our artists go on to careers working with larger opera companies,” says James. From the stages just around the corner in Vancouver to European academies, the alumni of the BLO make good use of their experiences here in Burnaby. Incredibly, this operation all happens from the hearts and hard work of volunteers. While the artists are all payed industry rates for their work, another way to encourage these young artists into professional careers. The board of directors produces the entire season as volunteers, and the company, like most arts non-profits, operates based entirely on grants and donations. It’s quite the feat, coming from the heart of a true love for opera that anyone in Burnaby can share. Tickets to the June 22nd performance of Opera on a Sunday Afternoon are just $15 and can be purchased through the Shadbolt Centre Online Box Office. To find more events and festivals in Burnaby, check out the Tourism Burnaby events calendar for more upcoming festivals and performances!

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