It’s been 10 years since Vernon was host to one of the only opera festivals in the B.C. Interior.
A not-too distant memory for one of its founders, local tenor Paul Moore, the Okanagan Vocal Arts Festival ran for four years and saw performers – both professional and amateur – from all parts of Canada and overseas converge on our small city for a week of singing.
Among the events were master classes, workshops, and a performance of a full-scale opera.
Also born out of the festival was the very popular and free community event, Opera in the Park, where singers casually performed famous arias alfresco at the Polson Park bandstand.
It’s that event that Moore is resurrecting when Opera in the Park returns to Polson Park this Sunday.
“We were looking for the right time to stage it again,” said Moore. “We were hoping to resurrect it with new energy by starting with a free event in the park. We hope to grow it from there.”
On the roster of performers is Moore, who was raised in Armstrong, and started out singing in his dad’s rock band.
Moore would go on to study classical voice and opera at UVic, McGill, New York’s The Juilliard School, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and the Israeli Vocal Institute. He has sung professionally in most major Canadian cities with opera companies and symphony orchestras.
Moore has continued to perform since returning to the North Okanagan 18 years ago.
Besides singing from the classical and operatic repertoire, he has fronted rock groups and big bands and has also taught voice and produced operatic theatre.
His more recent project is leading the Kokanee Singers, a choir he founded in 2012.
“My mom and dad now sing in the choir, so it has come full circle,” said Moore.
Joining Moore at Opera in the Park will be the Kokanee Singers as well as the Inspirati Chorale, which features a smaller group from the choir who sing medieval-era motets a cappella, and the Vernon Flute Ensemble, a trio of local flute players who are working on operatic repertoire.
Also performing is guest soprano Stephanie Nakagawa, originally from Salmon Arm. She has performed in numerous operas and with symphonies around the world and is currently pursuing her doctorate at UBC and holds a master’s in music performance from Indiana University.
Those who love Italian opera composers Puccini and Verdi are in for a treat.
“Eighty per cent of the program are familiar pieces,” said Moore.
“We will have performances from La Boheme, Nessum Dorma (from Turandot), O mio babbino caro (from Gianni Schicchi), as well as Brindisi (The Drinking Song) from La Traviata.”
There will also be a selection from Bizet’s Carmen and Handel’s Ombra mai fu as well as some musical theatre and popular music, including You Raise Me Up (made famous by Josh Groban) and Close Every Door from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Audience members will also have the opportunity to let their inner tenor or soprano out with a sing-along.
The public is encouraged to bring a lawn chair and/or blanket. There will be food available from some mobile vendors as well as a draw for prizes, donated by local businesses who support classical music.
Opera in the Park starts at 6 p.m. Sunday and is a free family-friendly event.