To all Arts Lovers, WELCOME!

Today’s modern-day version of Opera Nanaimo was founded in 2013 by Carol Fetherston and Michael and Bonnie Stebbings. Its mission is to produce and perform high-quality and appealing Operatic Works for all Vancouver Island residents to enjoy. It wants to help audiences better understand and appreciate this unique art form. Another of its goals is to enhance and expand Vancouver Island’s existing rich cultural scene through music.

Since its founding, the Society has staged several successful events. Productions include: Opera Gems (2014), Amahl and the Night Visitors (2015), Hansel and Gretel (2016), and Voices in the Vineyard (2017). In 2018, another delightful Voices in the Vineyard event will be held at the Millstone Winery on August 12th. A new Garden Art event has also been added this year featuring resident sculptor Joël A. Prevost, making this event even more special. Plans are also underway to stage an exciting New Year’s Eve Dinner and Viennese Concert featuring both seasoned singers and dancers.

Today, it is well known that culture lasts for centuries and makes communities stronger. We at Opera Nanaimo would like to thank all of you for your ongoing support. Also of note is that opera is not new to Nanaimo. Indeed, it found its way to this city over a century ago. Below is a quick historical account of how opera began here.

Nanaimo’s old Opera House was designed by well known Victoria architect William Ridgway Wilson. It was built by John Mayhrer, a prominent Nanaimo businessman, who, at the time, was both a brewmaster and city councillor. His plan for the Opera House was approved and, when it opened on Church Street March 16, 1889, its impact was immediate. The threestorey building housed a hotel on the upper two floors and a showpiece theatre at ground level below. Considered grand and sophisticated, it featured a mirrored rotunda, an 800-seat auditorium, royal boxes, red and gold-laced curtains, galleries, and a modern orchestra pit. An elegant venue for community events and local and touring musicians, actors, poets and vaudeville performers, many prominent and successful artists at the time appeared there. Popular-at- the-time poet and writer, Pauline Johnson, for example, read poetry to assembled audiences incorporating into her performances notes from her father’s Aboriginal and her mother’s English backgrounds. In 1902, the theatre also hosted one of Nanaimo’s first picture shows: a series of over 10,000 animated images of Edward VII being crowned King on August 9, 1902 in London, England. Fire destroyed the building, and, sadly, it was never rebuilt. The impressive structure stood where the Dorchester Hotel is located today.

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