Concert opera ‘to get the music off the page’

WHITE ROCK – When four singers and a pianist take the stage here Friday, Jan. 10, it’ll be all about the music.

Arias, duets and ensembles written by Georges Bizet, Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi will be performed at First United Church by members of Vancouver Concert Opera Society.

The group returns to the spacious venue on Semiahmoo Avenue with its “Three Cities, Three Composers” concert, which will also be staged in Vancouver and Sechelt this weekend.

The organization, known affectionately as VanCOCO, was established in 2010 to create performance opportunities for operatic singers, both “emerging” and professional.

“We are a concert opera society, so we do concert opera, generally with no staging or costumes, so it’s all tuxes and gowns,” Natalie Burdeny, the group’s founder and artistic director, told the Now.

“The idea we have is to get the music off the page and for people to enjoy true opera without all this other stuff going on,” Burdeny added with a laugh. “Our events are really just about the voice and focusing on what the composer wrote and what the lyrics are, and getting the drama across vocally as opposed to with all the other aspects of theatre.”

Last year at this time, the group staged the concert opera Die Fledermaus at First United Church.

“The acoustics there are lovely, there’s a decent piano, the rates are affordable – all of that good stuff,” Burdeny said.

“There isn’t a huge amount going on in the arts during the first couple weeks of January, which is partly why we chose this time of year to do our concerts.”

VanCOCO started out doing shows in Vancouver and branched out to places like White Rock and Victoria.

Burdeny, a mezzo, will perform Friday at the 70-minute concert in White Rock, along with soprano Arianna Sovernigo, tenor Sunny Shams, baritone Andrew Greenwood and pianist Michael Onwood.

Tickets can be purchased online for $29 (adults) and $24 (students and seniors), via link at At the door, tickets are priced at $35 for adults and $30 for students and seniors. First United Church is located at 15385 Semiahmoo Ave., White Rock.

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