Next week, City Opera Vancouver presents CHINATOWN, A New Opera written by Madeleine Thien and composed by Alice Ping Yee Ho with translator Paul Yee. The company’s fifth commission in ten years, will be stages September 13 to 17 at the Vancouver Playhouse, chosen due to its proximity to Chinatown.
The ground-breaking new work, like nothing that’s been done before, CHINATOWN opens at a time of anti-Asian racism, a struggle to preserve Chinatown itself, and a need to tell the Canadian story it embodies.
CHINATOWN is the first opera written about any Chinatown in Canada and is believed to be the first opera written in English, Cantonese, and Hoisan combined.
CHINATOWN builds on the eloquence of one of Canada’s greatest writers, Madeleine Thien, the music of award-winning composer Alice Ping Yee Ho, and the subtle and brilliant translations of Paul Yee.
“Although a Western opera,” says City Opera’s artistic director Charles Barber, “it incorporates traditional Chinese themes, sounds and sensibilities. It is a story of racism and resistance, neighbourhood and family. And it is a love story. It will have wide appeal.”
“In two acts and two hours it examines six characters, two families, and a chorus of ghosts, from the building of the CPR through to our own times. It deals with violence and despair, the Head Tax, the Exclusion Act, paper sons, and paper promises. This opera is a story of family and neighbourhood, racism and resistance, history and tomorrow” says Barber.
The fusion orchestra plays both Chinese and Western instruments. English and Chinese supertitles will be provided throughout
Originally conceived as a full-scale production but delayed one year by COVID, City Opera has announced that due to casting and production issues, CHINATOWN will now give a complete presentation of the opera, but in a staged concert format.
With the company unable to acquire the services of the additional cast members needed and to resolve related production issues, time was running out to offer the version originally intended. Rather than postpone further, this revised staged-concert format offers the company its best-possible solution in this complicated environment. All the elements of this meaningful and timely opera remain intact in this rendition, no words or notes are omitted and stage director Desdemona Chiang will bring an active energy and imagination to the production.
Tickets for CHINATOWN at Vancouver Playhouse September 13 – 17, 2022 are on sale online at cityoperavancouver.com. For previous purchasers of CHINATOWN tickets who would prefer not to see this revised presentation, City Opera Vancouver invited them to contact (toll free) 1-888-961-6111 x 101 to arrange their choice of a full refund, or a voucher of identical value for a future production.