Pacific Opera Victoria | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Pacific Opera Victoria

Pacific Opera Victoria (POV). Opera company, located in British Columbia's capital city. Offering four productions annually, POV creates locally produced music-drama of an international calibre.

Pacific Opera Victoria

Pacific Opera Victoria (POV). Opera company, located in British Columbia's capital city. Offering four productions annually, POV creates locally produced music-drama of an international calibre. The company emerged directly out of the Vancouver Island Opera Society (VIOS), an amateur group founded by local singers in 1975. In 1979, this group renamed itself Pacific Opera Association ("Association" being replaced by "Victoria" in 1987). The hiring of conductor Timothy Vernon as artistic director in 1980 consolidated the company's shift to professional status (although the artists engaged by VIOS - including conductors Stanley Chapple and Vernon, musicians of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, and singers such as Selena James - were often professionals). Performing initially in the 800-seat McPherson Playhouse, POV gradually shifted operations to the 1,350-seat Royal, where it continues to be accompanied by the Victoria Symphony.

POV has featured artists such as Ben Heppner at early stages of their careers, and given local singers like Richard Margison their debuts. For its size, POV has debuted or showcased a disproportionate number of Canada's finest opera singers: Michael Schade, Ingrid Attrot, Sandra Graham, Joanne Kolomyjec, Benjamin Butterfield, Mark Pedrotti, John Avey, Paul Frey, Bernard Turgeon, Cornelis Opthof, Peter Barcza, Robert Milne, John Fanning, Heather Thomson, Brett Polegato, Russell Braun, Christiane Riel, Nathalie Paulin, Brian McIntosh, Janet Stubbs, Monica Whicher, and Kathleen Brett.

The company has remained faithful to its original mandate, described in 1980 as bringing audiences "tomorrow's stars today" at affordable prices, nurturing young Canadian artists, and providing training and development services. With a budget in 2005 of $2.1 million, only 18 percent of which was supplied by government, POV has thrived despite serving a local population of under 300,000. Outreach programs have included an opera-in-schools touring series, a New Opera Laboratory that pairs composers with librettists, and the Burton Lowell and Olive Kurth Young Artists Program.

Significant Performances

POV produced the world premiere of Louis Applebaum's Erewhon (2000; libretto by Mavor Moore). It has also staged a number of significant Canadian premieres: Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream (1993), Weber's Der Freischütz (1994), Italo Montemezzi's Love of Three Kings (1996), Vittorio Giannini's Taming of the Shrew (2001), and Lee Hoiby's The Tempest (2004), Richard Strauss's Daphne (2007), and Marc Blitzstein's Regina (2008). The company's national reputation, secured through "Saturday Afternoon at the Opera" broadcasts on CBC, was advanced in 2005 with a restaging of its Tosca in London, Ontario.

Artistically, the company is known for its dramatically appropriate casting of young singers within theatrically fresh accounts of the standard and not-so-standard repertoire. Highlights include Carmen (1984), set in contemporary Nicaragua; Turn of the Screw and Italian Girl in Algiers (both 1997); Ariadne auf Naxos (1999); Julius Caesar (2001, featuring counter-tenors Matthew White and David Dongqyu Lee); and John Rea's orchestral reduction of Wozzeck starring Jean Stilwell and Theodore Baerg, co-produced with the Opera Festival of New Jersey (2002). POV's Fidelio received an award-winning broadcast on PBS (Seattle) in 1988; in 1994 its Abduction from the Seraglio was featured in a Knowledge Network documentary.

Directors, Designers, Guest Conductors

Robert Carsen, Christopher Newton, and Glynis Leyshon made their mainstage Canadian operatic debuts with POV. Bill Glassco, Brian MacDonald, Alison Greene, and Richard Rose have also directed at POV, and Susan Benson, William Schmuck, Alison Green, Teresa Przybylski, Mary Kerr, Debra Hanson, and Allan Stichbury have designed for it. The company's commitment to Canadian creative teams is one of its most distinctive features; unfortunately, so is its reliance on an amateur chorus, which can compromise theatrical quality. Guest conductors include Georg Tintner, Pierre Hétu, Leslie Uyeda, Susan Haig, Paul Nadler, Robert Cooper, Laurent Philippe and Giuseppe Pietraroia (conductor-in-residence from 2003).

Other Personnel

Founding members who retained their positions or remained associated with the company in 2010 included principal conductor Vernon, chorus master and répétiteur Robert Holliston, past presidents George and Jane Heffelfinger, and benefactor Erika Kurth. General managers have included Cathrine Lowther (1979-82), Cameron More (1982-5), Kerri Mooney (1985-8), Ernest Stigent (1988-9), Jane Heffelfinger (1989-90), Marcus Handman (1990-5), and Jeffrey Ouellette (1995-7), succeeded in 1997 by David Devan (executive director 2004-7), David Shefsiek (2007-10), and Patrick Corrigan (beginning 2010).

Further Reading