Debra Da Vaughn and Chris Simmons are creators and performers for A Night of Passion

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Surrey fundraiser for Young People's Opera Society offers sparkling music, food, wine and silent auction 'steals'

In the mood for ‘A Night of Passion’ with four opera singers?

A concert staged by South Surrey husband-wife team Christopher Simmons (tenor) and Debra Da Vaughn (soprano) may not be exactly as provocative as the title, but the pair, well known for creating concerts that are a lot of fun as well as musically rewarding, are sure the evening will be a feast of the senses for those who fancy indulging a love of good music, good food and drink (included in the ticket price) – all for a good cause.

A Night of Passion: Gala Opera Concert & Silent Auction (Saturday, June 6 at Surrey Arts Centre’s studio theatre, 13750 88 Ave.) is both a celebration and benefit for the re-launch of the Young People’s Opera Society of BC (YPOS) – for which Simmons and Da Vaughn are new artistic directors.

“We do seem to have this tendency to choose similar titles for many of our events,” noted Simmons. “A Night at the Opera; A Night on Broadway, for example.

“We thought by inviting people to join us for ‘a night of passion’, we’d at least get their attention.”

The intimate setting of the studio theatre is, in itself, a guarantee the concert will be an eye-opener. It’s likely that opera lovers have never had such an up-close and personal view of the artistry and gusto that goes into performing operatic repertoire, they agreed.

Taking advantage of the space, Simmons and Da Vaughn are offering two choices for seeing the concert. For $35 it can be viewed the traditional way, from the audience section, but for $45 you can sit right in the stage area with Da Vaughn, Simmons and fellow performers Dionne Sellinger (mezzo soprano), Andrew Greenwood (baritone) and musical director/pianist Angus Kellett.

“With the Habanera from Carmen on program, for $45 you may just end up with a mezzo-soprano in your lap,” Simmons quipped.

With a program of tasty popular tidbits from the classic operatic repertoire – everything from Rossini to Bernstein’s witty Candide – the concert is sure to be fast-moving. A full performance of Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge will clock in at a quick nine minutes, challenging pre-conceived notions the form has to be long and draggy.

Also included in the ticket price: a chance to meet the artists at a post-concert reception.

Host for the concert, which begins at 7 p.m., is Colleen Maybin, community-engagement director for Vancouver Opera, and she will be underlining her organization’s new emphasis on building an audience for opera as a vital and current art form.

“Rather than putting on a full production of Madame Butterfly, they can reach out to communities with newly commissioned operas like Neil Wesensel’s Stickboy, which is all about bullying in schools – it’s very contemporary,” Simmons said, noting that in Mozart’s time opera was equally likely to be a vehicle for social commentary and satire.

“It’s a risky transitional period,” said Da Vaughn. “The majority of people who see opera are older and more used to the traditional, but Vancouver Opera has been brilliant in initiating new operas.”

“Colleen will also be talking about us as local (residents) – we’re neighbours, who also happen to be opera singers,” Simmons said. “All of us are Fraser Valley-based and we’ve all sung with Vancouver Opera. Opera doesn’t have to be something that’s only in New York.”

Simmons and Da Vaughn say Vancouver Opera has also been a “wonderful partner” in moving forward with a revived YPOS schedule.

Plans include a 2016 production with local youth performers ranging in age from 14 to early-20s.

While the project has not been finalized, Simmons said the intent is to choose one with audience appeal, but one that will also highlight classical singing technique, while giving the young singers a chance to work with established professionals.

In the interim, the emphasis is on building a contingency fund for YPOS that will establish a more secure financial base for operation; as Simmons said, “so you’re not using the next production to pay for the last one.”

That’s where the fundraising part of A Night of Passion comes in – including the silent auction, which starts at 6 p.m.

For someone who is in the market for a new grand piano, Da Vaughn said, a new, Mason and Hamlin grand piano is “a scream of a deal for an incredible instrument.” Considered one of the finest pianos in the world under six feet in length, it lists for $83,000 – but bidding starts at only $47,000.

Also up for grabs are such desirables as an $18,000 Charles Walther upright grand – starting at $12,000 – and a limited edition giclee floral by Hawaiian painter Fanny Bilodeau.

A host of smaller ticket items include tickets for sporting events; dance lessons; hotel stays; and a deluxe evening at the Vancouver Opera, including a stay at Hotel Blu and dinner at La Terrazza in Yaletown.

 

To reserve tickets, call 604-501-5566, or visit https://tickets.surrey.ca

 

 

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