Kim Gaynor - Vancouver Opera General Director

Vancouver, BC

The inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival will happen in 2017 from April 28 until May 13. It features three fantastic new opera productions.  

The 16-day Vancouver Opera Festival will also offer a new VO-commissioned visual art installation, performances by superb vocal artists, new collaborations with other Vancouver arts organizations, a massive choral extravaganza, and engaging, immersive experiences for people of all ages. 

To get ready for the festival, the VO is presenting Hansel & Gretel with larger-than-life puppets. It starts November 24, and you can view the cool animated preview here

Not a fan of opera? Have you given it a shot? We talk with General Director, Kim Gaynor, about what first-timers need to know, what to expect at next year's festival, and her favourite operas. As Kim notes, "All that is required is an open mind and open ears."

G: How did you first get introduced to opera? 

K: I was introduced to opera first working for the National Arts Centre. The orchestra did some concert versions of opera, which made me curious and then I started to attend “real” operas when I could.

G: Was it a genre you liked right away, or needed time to warm-up to? 

K: There are still operas I like more than others. Of course it depends on so many factors, but a fantastic performance will always be a worthwhile experience and can be much more than that. Just last Saturday I attended the UBC performance of The Consul. This is an opera written just after the 2nd world war, but it has so much relevance to today. Many operas are about universal and timeless themes: love, jealously, revenge, hope and so on.

G: What would you say to audiences who have never attended an opera show before? What should they expect? Are there “cultural norms” they should know about attending? Do you encourage them to attend? 

K: All that is required is an open mind and open ears. They don’t need to know anything, but if they want to prepare there is always a lot of information on the web about any opera. We also have pre concert talks and programme notes to help with understanding, and there are subtitles projected above the stage in English so anyone can follow the story no matter what language is being sung. Some operas are considered to be easier for first-timers, like our Hansel and Gretel, but I think it is such a personal choice what kind of music speaks to you.

G: What can you say about this year’s festival? We hear there are some never before seen productions? 

K: There are new productions of all three operas we are presenting, which means the sets and costumes have been recreated and will be seen for the first time during the Festival. There will also be lots of activity which is not, strictly speaking, opera, such as a choral extravaganza, invited artists like Ute Lemperer, and many educational activities for all ages. You can come for an afternoon, or stay the whole day and always find something interesting going on.

G: Is there a production that you predict will be the most popular? 

K: Difficult to say because, again, it depends on your tastes. Otello is a monumental work-really grand opera, whereas Dead Man Walking is an extremely moving, but also disturbing true life tale and a more intimate story. The Marriage of Figaro is funny and wonderful, with costumes designed by a famous runway fashion designer. So it depends on your mood and your tastes what will be popular.

G: Where is your favourite venue to watch opera (world-wide)?

K: There are many extraordinary places in the world to watch opera, and I have been lucky enough to go to many of them. Among my favourites would be Bayreuth Festival, where Wagner’s operas are performed, has a unique concert hall with the orchestra pit under the stage. Another of my favourites is the Bregenz Festival in Austria where the stage is on a floating dock in the lake with the lake and sky as a backdrop.

G: What is your favourite opera to watch? 

K: What a question! There are so many. But if I have to say the one I would like to see again today I would reply Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes.

G: Finally, what are a couple songs (opera or maybe just your current favourites of any genre) readers should check out? 

K: Well, they should listen to the Song to the moon from Dvorak’s opera Rusalka, or the Flower Song from Bizet’s Carmen.

G: It's going to be a great festival, thank you for chatting!