After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Vancouver Concert Opera Society showcases the music of Verdi's Rigoletto

Artistic director Natalie Burdeny performs in a concert version of Verdi's Rigloletto.

Fresh off their win for "Outstanding Ensemble Production" at the 2012 Ovation Awards for Trouble in Tahiti at last summer’s Fringe Festival,  Vancouver Concert Opera Society (VanCOCO) is presenting a concert version of Verdi’s Rigoletto February  15 and 17 at the Canadian Memorial United Church (15th and Burrard) in Vancouver and on Feb. 18 at the First United Church (15385 Semiahmoo Ave.) in White Rock. 

The show is one to watch for, if it's anything like their sold-out concert version of Carmen in the beautiful Minoru Chapel in Richmond last year. At the end of the performance, audiences leaped to their feet in appreciation.

Why do audiences respond so well to VanCOCO's productions? 

“We produce musical concerts in an intimate setting with beautiful acoustics which is close to a more intimate European opera experience,"
managing and artistic director Natalie Burdeny explained.

"The ambiance with the stained glass, the lights and sparkle honours the long held symbiotic relationship between the church and the musicians. We celebrate that continuum.”

Rigoletto, an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi with the  Italian libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave,  was first performed at La Fenice in Venice on March 11, 1851. The story is  based on the play Le roi s'amuse by French literary giant Victor Hugo.

Conducted  by the talented Canadian Maestro Gordon Gerrard, it features Toronto-based Baritone Keith O’Brien in the title role, with local favourites including dynamic Tenor Frédérik Robert (Duke of Mantua) and Coloratura Soprano Szu-Wen Wang (Gilda). Jordan Collalto (bass-baritone), Natalie Burdeny (contralto), Ed Moran (baritone), Megan Morrison (mezzo-soprano), Martin Sadd (tenor), Aaron Durand (Baritone), Brandon Thornhill (baritone), Max Van Wyck (baritone) and Jacqollyne Keath (mezzo soprano) round out the stellar cast. The piano accompaniment is by Wenwen Du.

Burdeny explained why Rigoletto was the choice for this concert. “It is one of the top 10 most performed operas in the world -- the reason being that it is fantastic," she said.

"For the audience and for the singers, it is loved and well-known, with memorable tunes."

"Verdi is an exceptional composer.”

The story of the court jester Rigoletto is filled with drama and tragic consequence that when  sung in Italian to withhold the integrity of the music, will be enhanced by narration by Jessie Award winning actor Bernard Cuffling.

The story telling should be clear, however, as the performers are able to really express the character’s subtext. The performance is a concert version --meaning that the singers are not staged and not in costume. This, Burdeny says, allows them to delve into the emotional lives of the characters more fully.

“We can get the emotion of the character while telling the story without worrying about staging or costumes,” she said.

Combine that with the beauty of the church setting and the glory of these gorgeous voices, and VanCOCO'S Rigoletto will give audiences energy to get through the last throes of winter. 


Verdi’s Rigoletto performances: 

February 15 and 17
Canadian Memorial United Church, Vancouver (15th and Burrard)
Performances at 7:00 p.m.

February 18

First United Church in White Rock (15385 Semiahmoo Ave)
Performance at 7:00 p.m. 

Opera “in-concert” sung in Italian with English narration. Advance tickets are $18 and $22 and can be purchased online at

CASH ONLY ($21 and $25) at the door

More in Culture

Pie à la Modulus: Hot, Sweet & Savory

Music on Main's annual Festival serves up varied fare citywide

Spin cycle in the Cosmic Laundromat

Gamers "click" IRL through VR role-playing in multimedia staging of 3,000 year old Chinese classic

Holy Dips at Vancouver Sangam

Indian Summer Fest treats local palates to mixed masala of arts, laughs and ideas
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.