Today I was invited down to Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the launch of the 3rd annual Vancouver Opera Festival, and 1st annual singing competition: VOX. Many young singers across Canada auditioned, and they managed to dwindle this number down to eight to compete. Eight future opera stars from across the country, competing for cash prizes and recognition on Vancouver’s large stage. A decision as voted by six judges and the entire audience. A panel of esteemed judges chaired by Music Director Emeritus, Jonathan Darlington. And we, the live audience voting for our favourite singer.

Attendees gathered prior to the show for a cocktail reception. The bar poured glasses of sparkling non stop. A pop and a fizz to get the night flowing.

You couldn’t bring glassware into the auditorium, but beer or wine in plastic sippy cups were fine.

And to keep you balanced, servers offered up small bites on slate trays. Like this tomato bruschetta on a crostini.

Seared tuna on crispy wonton skin.

And chocolate covered strawberries in milk and white chocolate.

Then when 6:30pm neared, we were invited into the auditorium for the live competition. Where I got my first taste of live opera and the ability to live out my “America’s Got Talent” dream as a judge.

The first performance got the pace going. Shantelle Przybylo was energetic and welcoming in her singing.

By comparison Amanda Perera was soft spoken. Her voice didn’t project the same and I couldn’t properly take her range in. But she was stunning, and great to watch; with her body motions matching the intensity of the effort she put into her singing.

I like having a male voice next for contrast: Ryan Nauta was mellow and smooth, and he sang us a smoothing ballad.

Joé Lampron-Dandonneau was another male voice, giving us a Tenor with more range.

Ana Toumine was a Soprano with powerful vocals. Though that broadcast came at a cost. You could hear the quick breaths and at points her being out of breath. She also showed off her ability with plenty of high to low notes in her choice of music. It was certainly interesting to listen to.

Sarah Bissonnette, a Mezzo, sang the happiest of all the tunes. It was upbeat and loud to start, really drawing you in. And the humorous gestures and quirky quips in piece kept you wanting more. She also choose the best song to showcase her skillful voice manipulation, and proved that the choice of song can determine a win.

 

Elizabeth Harris, a Soprano, too choose a difficult song. This one also showcased her ability to hit high peaks and low dips. Like her out reaches arms, her voice called you and pulled you in. Her mystical melody make me think of the ones mermaids would call out. Especially when the accompanying piano stopped playing and only her voice rung out through the hall.

Our last performer, Zainen Suzuki was a Baritone. I enjoyed how animated his facial expression were. They brought me into the story he was telling. And the audience gave him the loudest clap for it.

Next came time for us to vote, using hand held remotes, we keyed in our pick by number.

And while the judges deliberated we were serenade by Vancouver’s own Erin Wall, Canada’s leading opera singer. She melted so much through her facial expression and hand movements, that she had to stabilize herself against the Stanley and sons piano.

In the end Elizabeth Harris won third place. Second went to Ana Toumine. And for both first place and people’s choice, the win went to Sarah Bissonnette. Winning $5k and $2.5k respectively.

This was just the beginning of the night, as Vancouver opera’s signature fundraising event. A handful of attendees also purchased dinner tickets that began when the competition ended, and the curtains on stage lifted to reveal a banquet hall set to serve.

In short, this was a very nice way to kick start Vancouver’s Opera Festival, a taste of what to expect, leaving you wanting more. For all other showings and all opera fest events, and how to get your tickets, visit the link below soon to not miss out. This year’s theme is fables and fairytales, as told through visual, musical and theatrical arts.

Vancouver Opera Festival creates extraordinary experiences that redefine opera. Running from April 27 to May 5, the annual festival features nine days of operas, concerts, and free events. Explore #VOFest and buy tickets at www.vancouveropera.ca