A&E » Music

Retooled Rossini relocates Barber of Seville to Barkerville

Vancouver Opera Company brings touring production to Quest University



The Vancouver Opera Company is coming to the Sea to Sky region with its adapted production of Rossini's comic classic The Barber of Seville.

Set in the gold rush town of Barkerville, B.C., a century ago, The Barber of Barkerville tells the story of crafty barber Figaro and how he helps Al, a love-struck young man, gain his love Rosie from the dastardly innkeeper, Bart.

The company is bringing their abbreviated 45-minute production, adapted by Ann Hodges, to Quest University in Squamish on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.

"This production first toured around British Columbia in 2007 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the province. It's the same show but with new singers," said Vancouver Opera's education associate Melissa Tsang.

"The great thing about touring is that we also get to reach communities outside of the city, some of which have limited access to professional arts programs. The opportunity to provide students with an intimate performance experience is rewarding."

The production is part of "Vancouver Opera In Schools," one of the largest opera touring programs of its kind in Canada, which started 42 years ago.

The Barber of Barkerville at Quest is a community event; the show is open to the public and free. Seats are available on a first-come-first served basis.

"Primarily we would perform in elementary schools, but we do perform in some middle schools and high schools, as well as community performances like the Squamish one," Tsang said.

The performers are Lucas van Lierop as Al, Julia Rooney as Rosie, Jordan Collalto as Bart and Alan Macdonald as Figaro.

Tsang said the four professional singers, along with pianist Angus Kellett and stage manager Melanie Radelicki, drive to their performance locations and set up and take down the set for every performance.

The company is touring in the fall only and will put on 55 performances of the opera by the time they are finished. They have already played in the Kootenays, New Denver, Smithers and Prince George, along with other relatively remote locations.

"The experience is intimate, where students can be sitting merely a few feet away from the singers, and with the lights on there is the opportunity to make eye contact and connect. Unlike in a theatre where the house is dark, here the singers can often see the audience," Tsang said. "The connection affects the performers as well. They can see responses on people's faces, and it creates a different kind of energy in the room."

The mandate, Tsang adds, is to broaden the opera audience.

"Many students and adults experience opera for the first time with a VOIS performance. Their first response is often to the big sound, and they ask, why and how do we sing so loud. Many people are surprised that singers can produce such a large sound without amplification," she said.

The dean of students at Quest University, Melanie Koenderman, said the opera was part of Quest's fall arts series, which features one event per month. The event is not ticketed and they will try to "squeeze people in."

For information on Vancouver Opera In Schools visit: http://www.vancouveropera.ca/vois.html.

For information on Quest University Canada's public events visit: http://www.questu.ca/news_and_events/public_events.php.