Behind the Scenes

Carmen by Georges Bizet

Postponed from the 2019/20 season, Carmen will return – as bewitching as ever! Instantly recognizable and utterly unforgettable, this opera brims with audacious harmonies and irresistible melodies that have earned their place in popular culture. As for the character of Carmen herself, there is no one quite like her. Willful, charismatic, fiercely independent, she defies the razor-thin line between love and hatred, desire and death.

Take a look behind the scenes at Opera Canada’s feature, Constructing Carmen at Pacific Opera Victoria and in the Opera Shop Tour below!

Sylvain Genois’ preliminary drawing
for Carmen’s costume.


Sylvain Genois’ preliminary drawing
for Micaela’s costume.

A Day in the Life of a Professional Opera Singer

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a professional opera singer? Join tenor Kaden Forsberg and baritone Micah Schroeder as they pull back the curtain for the Royal BC Museum to show you ‘a day in the life’, sharing the high notes, the low notes, and everything in between!

One Note at a Time

Article by Rebecca Hass for the Community Partnership Network Newsletter
Headshots of presenters for Equity Action Plans at Pacific Opera VIctoria
Consultants for Pacific Opera’s Action Plans

In the fall of 2020, the arts organization I work for – Pacific Opera Victoria – began a process of learning and consultation to help our organization develop a series of Action Plans for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Reconciliation and Environmental Stewardship. In the context of George Floyd’s death in June 2020 and the subsequent world events that highlighted systemic racism, there was a sense of renewed urgency for arts organizations like ours to become a “force for positive change”. This sentiment surged across arts organizations, through communities and across the country. This surge for positive change included using our art form of opera and influence to help dismantle the systemic inequities that persist in our communities, The time was ripe for taking action to ensure that the future of opera remains relevant and evolves into an art form that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

To initiate this process of meaningful change, Pacific Opera engaged Dr. Lisa Gunderson, a local human rights and equity consultant, to assist us with our journey of change. Dr. Lisa Gunderson specializes in facilitating anti-racism and equity discussions. Starting in the fall of 2020 and into 2021, Dr. Gunderson and a number of other change consultants (all pictured above) have been working with Pacific Opera staff, board members and community supporters. Dr. Gunderson has guided Pacific Opera in a process of learning and engagement with a range of community and arts stakeholders. The fall and winter of 2020 have been filled with a series of introductory workshops exploring subjects such as systemic racism, gender diversity, disability justice, income Inequality, LGBTQ2+ inclusion, and gender equality. In the coming weeks we will be developing and delivering a series of workshops focused on Sustainability and Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The learning and change we have embarked on at Pacific Opera Victoria will inform the development of strategic action plans with a goal to integrate social values into our artistic, administrative and governance practices. This is a time for action. Pacific Opera Victoria is committed to the ongoing and crucial work that needs to be done in this field. We know that diversity, inclusion, equity and reconciliation will enrich our community and, ultimately, our art form. As we change one note at a time, we here at Pacific Opera are reminded of the words of Mahatma Ghandi who said each of us can “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Lifting the Curtain

Take a peek behind the curtain to see how we use backstage tools to bring stories to life. As a part of the Greater Victoria Public Library’s series “Lifting the Curtain: Stories from Behind the Scenes”, hear stories from the Opera Shop’s props department and then head to the Royal Theatre for a backstage tour!

An interview with...

Barbara Hubbard, Baden-Baden Boutiques

Production Sponsor of Pacific Opera’s production of Carmen.

Although the production is postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, Barbara Hubbard, owner of Baden-Baden Boutiques, is committed to supporting the company through the uncertainty that lies ahead. Last week, Barbara chatted with us about opera and philanthropy.

Q: As owner of Baden-Baden, a European and North American fashion store, you’ve been an annual sponsor of Pacific Opera productions since 2006 and in that role alone, you’ve made a significant contribution to cultural art in this city. We’d love to share your connection to Pacific Opera with our audience.

Yes, long-time supporter of Pacific Opera Victoria – indeed. I used to collect and frame all posters of Pacific Opera productions that I sponsored and although they don’t give me any dates (unfortunately), I have one that celebrates the 35th anniversary of Pacific Opera with the production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Now we are celebrating our 40th anniversary and I consider it a great privilege to be part of this opera family. Having recently watched the video of “Inside Opera” with Timothy and Robert – what could be more invigorating, fascinating and exciting than watching those two outstanding artists give their interpretations of the five operas they would take to a desert island. Over the years I have been witness to the ever-evolving quality of productions and the courage to present lesser known works, most of which were received to high acclaim.

Ernesto Ramírez & Tracy Dahl, Lucia di Lammermoor, Pacific Opera Victoria, 2015. David Cooper Photography


Q: What was your first opera and where did you see it? What is it about opera that continues to engage you?

Looking back on my first opera – I was 10 years old and growing up in Germany when my grandmother took me to see Nabucco. I remember my reaction at the time. I wished quietly that the singing would stop so I could listen to the music. I have to admit that I have come a long way since then. I can’t think of a more precious and unique instrument than the human voice.

Q: What inspired you to become a sponsor of Pacific Opera Victoria in particular? Where did you find the connect between fashion and philanthropy?

While serving as a Director on the Pacific Opera Victoria board for many years I felt more and more connected to the world of opera and was astonished and delighted to find an ever-increasing interest and love for this art which I hope will never end.

Many years ago, when I looked at my Baden-Baden advertising budget and wondered how to promote the arts, it became obvious that my choice would be to support this wonderful opera company called Pacific Opera Victoria. Many of my customers were loyal opera subscribers and I knew they would appreciate Baden-Baden’s corporate philanthropy.

Q: As we move into the 2020’s, what are your aspirations for Pacific Opera Victoria?

As we move into 2020, our new life with and after the Coronavirus will undoubtedly be very instrumental in motivating composers and librettists to create new operas expressing the calamity, despair and loneliness (how operatic) but also the healing and revival of life in the post-COVID 19 era.

I anticipate and hope to be able to support Pacific Opera Victoria in the future and can’t wait for the new operas to be created and performed.

It is a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you, Barbara!

Marion Newman, Terry Hodges, Marianne Lambert. Cinderella (La Cenerentola), Pacific Opera Victoria, October 2010. Emily Cooper Photography.

Jee Hye Han & Adam Luther, Madama Butterfly, Pacific Opera Victoria, 2015. Emily Cooper Photography


An interview with...

David Flaherty and Karen Jensen

Production Patrons of Pacific Opera’s production of Carmen.

Although the production is postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, David and Karen are more committed than ever to supporting the company through the uncertainty that lies ahead.

David first became a fan of opera as a student at Columbia University in New York City. He enjoyed many operas from the 50-cent standing room section at the back of the old Metropolitan Opera house. After he moved to Victoria, he started to attend Pacific Opera’s productions and quickly became an integral part of the opera community. He joined the Pacific Opera board in 2008, served as President from 2010 to 2014, and is now the Chair of the Pacific Opera Victoria Foundation.

In this role David reminds us that “the Pacific Opera Foundation has had very small holdings until recently. We have made some lofty goals to increase our endowment and unrestricted funds to help us in times such as these.”

“Thanks to the generosity of donors who have included their opera company in their wills we are in a good position to weather this very serious storm. In my own estate planning, I am thinking about the organizations that I have supported through my live, and Pacific Opera is one that has meant a lot to me.”

When asked why he supports so many local organizations, including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Victoria Symphony, UVic, and Royal Roads University, David says that he is deeply interested in his own community. “I can make a difference, and I have more bang for my buck here. I’ve got no mortgage and my children are ok. I simply have money to give away, and I prefer to choose where I give it.”

The Magic Flute, Pacific Opera Victoria, 2009. Emily Cooper Photography


Karen Jensen is a licenced Victoria Realtor® with a long history of involvement as a community volunteer, starting nearly 30 years ago with the Hospice Swimathon Committee which met at the United Way of Greater Victoria offices. Currently she volunteers for the Garth Homer Society and the I-witness Holocaust Field School at UVic, and she serves as an active member of Pacific Opera’s President’s Circle Committee.

Karen was exposed to the arts from a very young age. She saw her first opera, La bohème, as a young child at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in 1962. She studied ballet from the ages of 6 to 18 and was immersed in the world of classical arts.

While there are many worthy causes to support, Karen believes in the power of the arts to take people’s minds off their worries and give themselves a mental vacation.

Service to the community is a crucial value for Karen, “Those of us who can carve out time, who are self-employed or who can find the time, should try to help our community; it’s easier for us than for those with 9-to-5 jobs. I have learned that this community is run largely on volunteer people power. That has really stayed with me over the last 30 years.”

Sharleen Joynt, J. Patrick Raftery and cast of La bohème, February 2018. David Cooper Photography


Thank you, David and Karen, for your service in the community and for helping to power Pacific Opera!

More information on how you can get involved in supporting Pacific Opera Victoria:

La traviata, Pacific Opera Victoria, February 2019. David Cooper Photography.

An interview with...

Head of Wardrobe: Sandra McLellan

While it might seem as if Sandra McLellan was born to be a costumer, she recalls being surprised that making costumes could be a career.

Today she is Head of Wardrobe at Pacific Opera Victoria, leading a three-person department. But growing up in Vavenby, B.C., a forestry town of about 700 people, she was taught to sew by her grandmother just to keep her busy.

“She was a professional dressmaker who had one of those old-fashioned sewing machines, with a treadle, and I remember being five or six and working the treadle for her,” Sandra recalls.

As a teenager, Sandra got involved in student theatre. But she had no intention of going on the stage or working behind it when she applied to the University of Victoria’s theatre program. She was inspired by her high school drama teacher to teach.

“But one of my course requirements was in a backstage discipline and the minute I walked into the costume shop…” she begins, punctuating the sentence with a gasp, as she remembers being awestruck. “I didn’t know this could be a career.”

She graduated from UVic in 1988 and found her first job as a seamstress at Ontario’s renowned Stratford Festival. She recalls that it was like a second education, as she learned how to build lavish period costumes for Shakespeare’s big casts.

Sandra joined Pacific Opera in 1992 and says it’s the perfect challenge for Wardrobe, with some shows having as many as 80 costumes.

Cast of Albert Herring, February 2013. David Cooper Photography


Sandra’s job begins after the designer delivers a vision for the show. She researches the period, estimates the costs, and then logs a lot of time online as she sources everything from fabric and trim to accessories and wigs.

The trick is to build costumes that enhance the story-telling without distracting the audience. The company’s 2019 operetta Countess Maritza, set in the Edwardian era, was a particular challenge with five “diva gowns” as they’re known, made in the elaborate style of 110 years ago.

Each required a minimum of 80 hours labour plus 16 yards of fabric plus the trim. And they had to pull audiences into Countess Maritza’s world without making them calculate the costs of the fabulous ensembles. Then there were the men’s suits. And the chorus.

Sandra has a pro-tip for getting a luxe look on a budget: buy the best fabric you can afford.

“It has to drape properly to look good,” she says. “We can shape a cheap synthetic fabric into what we need, but it takes a lot of labour to make it behave.”

Then she laughs: “There’s nothing worse than fabric that is misbehaving.”

Sandra is grateful for a never-boring job and says her three decades with the opera came with an unexpected perk: she developed a love of the music that goes well beyond the conventional favourites.

“I credit [Artistic Director] Timothy [Vernon] for that. He selects wonderful operas, including some that are a little obscure. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I really enjoy Benjamin Britten.”

December 5, 2019

Leslie Ann Bradley in Countess Maritza, April/May 2019. David Cooper Photography


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Cast of Gianni Schicchi in Pacific Opera’s production of Il trittico, October 2019. David Cooper Photography