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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

West Side Story at the Vancouver Opera

Now that James and I are newly married, we have quite a social calendar. Last evening we had the pleasure of attending the Vancouver Opera’s full-on Broadway-style production of West Side Story.


Not only did this production feature the original Jerome Robbins choreography (which is bloody challenging), but the singers and dancers combined forces with VO’s 30-piece powerhouse orchestra to hold our attention. It was wild and loud and worthy of the Tony awards and nominations the original production received.

New to West Side Story? In 1957, Robbins conceived, choreographed and directed the show, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents. He’s renowned for this show, it just celebrated 50 years, and it rocked the critics in its day.

West Side Story is a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet (which the VO is staging next—get your tickets now), set in Hell’s Kitchen NYC (VO’s poster artwork for the show styles the location as Vancouver, which I think is a pretty cool touch).

The thing about West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet is that these are classic stories of love, rivalry, death and remorse that resonate today.

Both open with a street fight between rival gangs.
The girls are betrothed to other men.
There’s a party, then a balcony scene.
A wedding and a couple of dead kids.

So we went, and there were some great moments! The show was directed by Ken Cazan, who worked with Leonard Bernstein, and it was choreographed by Tracey Flye, one of the few in the world officially certified to coach the original Robbins choreography. Talk about pulling out the big guns.

If you want to see this show, you need to act quickly as it’s close to sold out. Remaining shows run Thursday, October 27, Friday, October 28 and a matinee and evening performance on Saturday, October 29.

Tickets online: http://www.vancouveropera.ca/tickets/
VO ticket centre: 604-683-0222

If you don’t know West Side Story, instead of Romeo and Juliet, we have Tony and Maria (performed by Colin Ainsworth and Lucia Cesaroni) as our star-crossed lovers. Both are highly regarded opera singers for those of you poo-pooing the opera for opening its season with a Broadway-style production. These two have opera chops: Ainsworth, last seen on the VO stage as the love-struck Kristian in Lillian Alling, and Cesaroni, debuting on the VO stage and carrying on as soloist in The Messiah with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, both light up the stage in some of my favourite moments.

Maria in the Dress Shop with Anita. Cleopatra Williams as Anita; Lucia Cesaroni as Maria. Photo by Tim Matheson


Balcony Scene. Colin Ainsworth as Tony; Lucia Cesaroni as Maria. Photo by Tim Matheson


Dreaming of their wedding. Colin Ainsworth as Tony; Lucia Cesaroni as Maria. Photo by Tim Matheson


Beyond the singing, the dancing was gritty and full of energy. The first scene with the Sharks’ women and the dance hall was kung-pow!

Photo by Tim Matheson

So, if you haven’t gone to the opera in a while, West Side Story is a great place to start.

Tickets online: http://www.vancouveropera.ca/tickets/
VO ticket centre: 604-683-0222

And if you enjoyed the Vancouver Opera’s performance of West Side Story, then the rest of the season is not to be missed. A natural follow-up to West Side Story is the opera’s upcoming production of Romeo & Juliet.

The pairings don’t end there. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra goes Looney Tunes with “Warner Bros. presents Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” running November 19-20. Match that with the Vancouver Opera’s The Barber of Seville, which opens March 17, 2012, and you’ll be finely tuned.

See the VO’s 2011-2012 Season
Tickets online: http://www.vancouveropera.ca/tickets/
VO ticket centre: 604-683-0222

Watch rehearsal video, interviews with the cast and creative team, and VO’s West Side Story TV commercial at http://www.vancouveropera.ca/West-Side-Story.html


What a lovely story and i love opera.

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