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Review: Go For Opera! – An Encore Gala Concert

Culture, Music, Performance, Performance, Reviews

August 29, 2017

Opera Mariposa and the Heroic Opera Company are combining their talents to produce Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera this November. With such a stellar local and international cast, a fundraiser concert was a great idea. Go For Opera! was set up as a nicely packaged showcase of their talent.

On Sunday, August 20th, I had the opportunity to hear a variety of Opera’s best solos, duets, trios and ensembles sung by a variety of voice types. William Liu’s (baritone) performance was full of emotion, yet you could hear the drama just by listening to his warm colorful voice. Mark Pepe’s (tenor) always-present rich tone supports his ability to sing through his high notes in the most Italian romantic way, with a brilliant and full sound. Melissa Ratcliffe (mezzo-soprano) performed with a voice so pure and clear, I can only describe it as crystalline. In the ensembles, Melissa got me excited about Un Ballo in Maschera, because her tone and presence fits so well, yet shines in a unique way among the other singers.

One of the solo highlights was “Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille” from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Nancy Hasiuk, a Canadian soprano currently studying and working in Germany, brought brilliance and warmth into even the most difficult coloratura high notes. Nancy also has a natural comedic side, which was carried over to the encore piece, “A Word On My Ear” by Flanders & Swann.

This show had a bittersweet side as well. Not only did we see a wonderful connection to Germany, but this was also a goodbye to an integral member of Opera Mariposa: Managing Director and soprano, Robin Hahn. This was her last show before moving to launch her career in Germany.

Robin brings everything to the stage from her sweet and elegant voice, to her versatile acting. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Robin’s repertoire can be technically demanding, because she makes it look so easy—especially when her character is so engaging. It was heart-warming to watch Robin sing with Heidi Muendel, her first voice teacher.

Heidi Muendel (soprano), Canadian born and working in Germany, will undoubtedly be worth the price of your ticket to Un Ballo in Maschera, just to hear her sing! She is the goddess of resonance, with a deeply rich voice that is both wonderfully dark, with bright overtones at the same time. There’s an Italian word to describe this from the bel canto tradition: chiaroscuro. Heidi has a beautifully balanced sound.

Overall, the concert was a crescendo of beautiful music, including excerpts from Un Ballo in Maschera. To top it all off, everyone joined in to sing the drinking song, “Libiamo ne’ Lieti Calici” from La Traviata. It was a reminder of how much this small community is like family. Their wine glasses may have been empty, which was a good thing, since Heidi’s adorable little girl joined her on stage! Yet, their glasses were full of something else: love, joy, and artistry.

More details about the upcoming performance of Un Ballo in Maschera:

In Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, or A Masked Ball, a secret love triangle and a political conspiracy both come to a head on a single night at a masquerade. This tale of passion, deception, and intrigue features some of the best dramatic music ever written, so you won’t want to miss your chance to see Verdi’s lush score brought to life by a stellar cast from across North America, Europe, and Asia!

Performance Dates:

Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

Canadian Memorial United Church, 1806 W. 15th and Burrard, Vancouver

Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

Canadian Memorial United Church, 1806 W. 15th and Burrard, Vancouver

Third performance date coming soon!

Staged in Italian with English subtitles

Tickets $18-$28 at http://operamariposa.com/tickets, at 1-800-838-3006 or at the door

Learn more at http://operamariposa.com/


Kathryn grew up in Vancouver as a proud geek & nerd. Her love of sci-fi led to her first big dramatic dream of becoming the blue alien from the Fifth Element. Instead, she graduated with a Bachelors of Music degree as an opera singer. She is also a regular photographer for various performing arts groups and recently has been most interested in fun boudoir & body positive photo shoots. You can contact her here.

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Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show – Opera Mariposa

Culture, Events, Performance, Reviews

May 26, 2017

Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show

I recently had the pleasure of attending Opera Mariposa’s “Here I Stand” benefit and awareness concert for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (ME/CFS & FM).

Soprano and Artistic Director, Jacqueline Ko, tells her inspirational story of living with ME/FM through a variety of musical theatre songs and opera arias with highly accomplished pianist Angus Kellet.

A big part of Jacqueline’s story is the chronic pain and emotional struggles born out of the many obstacles she has faced. That struggle was explored through carefully chosen songs and arias. The song “Anyone Can Whistle”, by Stephen Sondheim, was an insight into what it feels like to not be able to do normal things the way someone without ME/FM would.

So why not do extraordinary things? Jacqueline became an opera singer and started an opera company. She mentioned this with pride, and rightfully so.

I know how much work goes into putting on a show like this, but I was blown away when Jacqueline said she will spend months recovering from this one night. “You Learn to Live Without”, from If/Then by Tom Kitt, alluded to all the adjustments Jacqueline has had to make since she became ill at just six years old. Yet you can see how much joy singing brings to her life, and how it radiates to the other people around her.

Her musical numbers showcased how versatile her voice can be: delightfully sweet and intimate, yet also powerful and raw. It was a welcome surprise to hear her sing “Wait For It” (complete with an Opera Mariposa chorus) and “That Would Be Enough” from the highly acclaimed and very popular musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

However, two pieces were absolute standouts for me. “To This, We’ve Come” from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, requires a solid classical technique, while still conveying an utterly tragic frustration with how immovable bureaucracy can be to the disenfranchised. It’s chilling to hear Jacqueline sing lines like “I’m asking for help, and all you give me is papers” as she sings with her whole body and every ounce of emotion.

The second standout piece for me was “Elle a fui, la tourterelle” from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. Jacqueline makes a quick joke about how she just had to sing this aria. It’s about a woman that is forbidden to sing because of her illness, but she sings anyway. I was very moved with how graceful, lyrical and resonant her voice was. It was as if the aria was written for her.

This concert was a unique experience, with a very important purpose. I’m grateful to have been there.

Photography by Diamond’s Edge Photography: https://michelledohertyphoto.smugmug.com/


Kathryn grew up in Vancouver as a proud geek & nerd. Her love of sci-fi led to her first big dramatic dream of becoming the blue alien from the Fifth Element. Instead, she graduated with a Bachelors of Music degree as an opera singer. She is also a regular photographer for various performing arts groups and recently has been most interested in fun boudoir & body positive photo shoots. You can contact her here.

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The Mariposa Opera presents “Here I Stand”

Culture, Events, Showcase

May 2, 2017

Do you know what Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is?

It’s okay if you don’t. I didn’t. I don’t think anyone in our offices did, which is why things like this are important. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a disease that causes fatigue, loss of memory and concentration, unexplained muscle and joint pain, and sore throat.

It’s that last one that has special meaning here: sore throat. Jacqueline Ko has suffered with ME/CFS since she was six years old. She’s spent a good chunk of her time bedridden but has still helped found the critically acclaimed production company, Opera Mariposa and the Mariposa Theatre Wing, while mastering a range of vocal skills. Combining both these things, Jacqueline has managed to raise over $35,000 for ME/CFS research, hoping to find a cure and increase visibility.

“ME can change the course of your life forever – it certainly did for me,” Ko says. “I’ve seen studies that compare its impact to multiple sclerosis, late-stage cancer or congestive heart failure, but it’s still rare for this disease to be taught in medical school. They say as many as 9 out of 10 people aren’t even diagnosed. I was lucky in that regard – but the fact is, even with a diagnosis, they still don’t fully understand the cause or have a cure.”

By pairing with the ME/FM Society of BC, Jacqueline has put together a series of musical singles that are meant to tell her story through music, weaving together different stylings and making sure that her show has something for everything. The show draws from diverse genres – from pop to Broadway to opera. Her set will include pieces by Puccini, Verdi, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as songs from the hit musical Hamilton. Jacqueline will be joined on stage by pianist Angus Kellett and several guest artists, and the evening will include a reception as well as a charity raffle contest with over $2,000 in prizes.

You can learn more about her story in the new book, Lighting Up a Hidden World: CFS and ME, by Valerie Free.

The concert itself will take place on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at 7:30 pm at the Marpole United Church, located at 1296 West 67th Avenue, Vancouver. You can click here to buy tickets, click here to find out more about the ME/FM Society of BC, and click here to find out more about Jacqueline Ko and the Opera Mariposa

Banner photo credits goes to Kathryn Nickford Photography

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