Burnaby Lyric Opera began in the early 1980's as a student vehicle under the inspiration and direction of Margarita Noye and was then called Shoestring Opera. As the Company expanded, professional singers became more involved and the Shoestring evolved into the professional company, NorthWest Opera. The Company offered singers who were performing in small roles or in the chorus for Vancouver Opera the opportunity to perform principal roles in operas such as Puccini's Suor Angelica, Romberg's The Student Prince and Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. These NWO productions were all critically acclaimed and a mandate to nurture and encourage British Columbia talent was born.

In the mid 90's well known director Drew Borlund was appointed Artistic Director of the Company and under his leadership the Company produced a successful series of works which included Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel and Donizetti's Rita. In 1997 the Company found a permanent home in the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and was re-named Burnaby Lyric Opera to reflect its association with the City of Burnaby. Its 1999 full-scale opera production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale prompted the critics to write "Burnaby Lyric Opera hits all the right notes with Don Pasquale," and "Don Pasquale is a tuneful, colourful and hilarious hit for Burnaby Lyric Opera." In 2000 the Company presented Rossini's La Cenerentola (sung in English) and the critics wrote "The imaginative and very charming and successful production by Burnaby Lyric Opera of Rossini's Cinderella," and "a well-chosen cast of principals gave us exciting previews of what are obviously careers about to launch." The following year the production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville was greeted with similar critical acclaim: "Burnaby Lyric Opera's Barber was a terrific, comic show" and "Burnaby can be proud of its own opera company, whose recent Barber of Seville was excellent in all facets of its production," and "Burnaby Lyric Opera is becoming a serious contender on our local opera scene." The Company's production in February, 2004 was Donizetti's The Elixir of Love which also garnered praise from the critics; "rich, well textured, wonderfully enthusiastic with young singers full of promise who will be known on the world stage in very short order;" "Burnaby Lyric Opera continues to build on its success."

Each season Burnaby Lyric Opera also produces a four-concert series, Opera for a Sunday Afternoon, featuring this same emerging professional operatic talent. This series is attracting a growing audience to the art of Opera.

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