Allison Cociani, founder of East Van Opera, performs in her first original full-length opera, Alma. The Vancouver-based company brings a new and innovative production, The Fall, to Victoria on Feb. 24. Michelle Doherty photo

East Van Opera brings new production to Victoria stage

‘The Fall’ combines original poetry with innovative compositions

Blending a classical music tradition with contemporary artists is a unique approach for any production. Throw in some original poetry and a group of composers and you’ve got the makings of an East Van Opera original.

The company – the brainchild of award-winning operatic soprano Allison Cociani – is dedicated to local and emerging artists with a particular focus on elevating women in the arts.

“When I was growing up, I was a singer and, as a writer, no one ever pushed me or asked me or gave me any idea that it was a possibility to become a composer,” Cociani says. “This is part of empowering women and girls to understand their full potential.”

The classically-trained singer began composing a few years ago, making music for video games. But the dream was always to write an opera of her own. Alma, her first outing, took three years from beginning to end. “It was a huge learning curve,” says the former Victoria Conservatory of Music student.

Combining her passion for composition and performance is what now drives East Van Opera, she says, as well as wanting to see artists step out of their comfort zones and bring new music to life.

The progressive company’s mission is exclusively the production of new operatic works like The Fall, coming to The Baumann Centre on Feb. 24. It features renowned tenor Benjamin Butterfield, the head of UVic’s voice program.

The production is the result of a poetry contest held by Cociani that garnered submissions from across the Lower Mainland and Victoria. The selected pieces were then sent to a group of composers who produced everything from performance-based art and art song pieces with melodic sensibilities to spoken word.

“Everyone has had a very different take,” she says. “It’s really interesting how that theme produced so many different interpretations.”

Cociani, who will perform with baritone Nathan McDonald, says opera on the West Coast is blooming. “I have this dream of making it really new and exciting. I love the idea of intriguing young people and getting them into it and bringing the worlds together.”

No matter the audience, the production maintains the vibe of the neighbourhood where it was created, and the unique collaboration it provides.

“You can do amazing things with just the intent to push and thrive and be creative. That is the spirit of the program.”

The Fall: Poetry and New Music Gala, happens Saturday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. at The Baumann Centre (925 Balmoral Rd.). Tickets are available at the door or at

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