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Friday, January 27, 2012

Opera Magazine Loves our West Side Story!

I received my copy of Opera magazine today. Published in the UK, Opera truly takes an international view of the art form, reviewing the productions of companies around the world, presenting interesting stories on singers, producers, creative artists, etc., and sharing news of the industry.

Vancouver Opera is reviewed occasionally – more frequently in the past couple of years than previously – but not every production we put on appears in Opera.

I was very pleased to see a really glowing review of our West Side Story in the latest issue. The critic, Bernard Jacobson asked, “How well can an opera company production of West Side Story stack up against the brilliant movie Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise made of this quintessential Broadway masterpiece?” He answered, “Very well indeed. In some respects... [VO's production] can even be said to have outshone the movie version.”

Some readers may be aghast - some may say, “never!” and some may think, hmm...maybe.... I, of course, am happy to agree with him! But the writer lays out the arguments for his case strongly and succinctly, lavishing praise on everyone involved along the way: Leslie Dala’s conducting, Ken Cazan’s vision and staging, Tracy Flye’s choreography, Cameron Anderson’s set design, the singers, the dancers, the costumes... all get kudos from Opera magazine.

Of course, this makes me very proud of the production and all involved with its creation, and bolsters my already-strong belief in the validity of West Side Story for the opera house and for its place in the repertoire. It also confirms my feeling that an opera company can bring its considerable forces to a major music theatre piece such as West Side Story in a way that’s hard for any other regional arts organization to equal.

As we embark on a major strategic planning initiative at Vancouver Opera, we are seriously considering the ramifications – positive and perhaps some negative – of producing “music theatre” in addition to what’s commonly perceived as “opera.” Do we? What? How often? In lieu of what, if anything? As we toss around these ideas, it is inspiring and instructional to read today the opinion of the respected trade paper, Opera magazine.

- James Wright
General Director, Vancouver Opera

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