Opera Mariposa presents Jacqueline Ko
in Here I Stand
Soprano and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis sufferer Jacqueline Ko presents
Here I Stand, a benefit show for the ME/FM Society of BC
Before I was invited to the Opera Mariposa “Here I Stand” performance by Jacqueline Ko, I’ve heard of this small opera group and of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a.k.a. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I really knew little of both and after writing this review from my wheelchair as I shattered my left kneecap later that night, through my own personal health crisis, I have a better appreciation of the obstacles that Jacqueline Ko faces every day in maintaining her position as founding artistic director of Opera Mariposa despite her ongoing health issues.
Opera Mariposa seems to be a platform from which young aspiring opera singers showcase their developing talents, offering tickets to the public for less than $50, this performance it was $25. You’ll never hear Pavarotti or Bocelli for that amazing price, but when I heard Jacqueline Ko sing Elle a fui, la tourterelle (Tales of Hoffmann) with her soprano voice effortlessly reaching the high scales, it felt as though the entire audience was swept up in a collective gasp of awe as the angelic waves of her sweet voice transcended the room.
Much more than just a presentation of modern and operatic songs, Jacqueline Ko chose to give us glimpses into her struggle with ME as she took us on a journey from her prognosis to how she manages it in present time. it was not a fancy speech or poetic rendition, but a heartfelt diarization of the ongoing health issues and misconceptions that chronic fatigue syndrome often mislabels an individuals as being lazy.
Opera Mariposa offers unpretentious opera without the fancy venues, costumes and big names. For music lovers it’s an opportunity to listen to young talented singers on their threshold to becoming great opera singers without that big price tag..
This May, an award-winning soprano will sing to support chronic neuro-immune disease awareness. On Saturday, May 13th, Opera Mariposa presents 25-year-old Jacqueline Ko in the gala benefit concert Here I Stand at Marpole United Church. The show honours the May 12th International Awareness Day for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (ME/CFS & FM), and a portion of every ticket sale supports the ME/FM Society of BC.
Ko has suffered from ME/CFS since age six and she wants to use her passion for music to raise awareness for the disease, which affects around 28 million people worldwide. “ME can change the course of your life forever – it certainly did for me,” Ko says. “I’ve seen studies that compare its impact to multiple sclerosis, late-stage cancer or congestive heart failure, but it’s still rare for this disease to be taught in medical school. They say as many as 9 out of 10 people aren’t even diagnosed. I was lucky in that regard – but the fact is, even with a diagnosis, they still don’t fully understand the cause or have a cure.”
Despite the challenges of her illness, which left her bedbound for years, Ko has managed to become a celebrated singer and show producer – a story told in the new book Lighting Up a Hidden World: CFS and ME by Valerie Free. At age 20 she co-founded the critically acclaimed production company Opera Mariposa, and over the last four years she has used her platform to advocate for others, with the organization’s annual benefit shows raising over $35,000 for ME/CFS & FM to date. “I wrote Here I Stand to not only raise awareness but support bigger changes,” says Ko. “For a lot of people with ME or Fibromyalgia” – the latter a related but distinct illness – “symptoms are only half the struggle. The other half is dealing with pervasive public misconceptions and a lack of medical support.”
Still, Jacqueline is hopeful. “Organizations like the ME/FM Society of BC do amazing work, and I think things are shifting. There have been global protests and coverage in outlets like the New York Times, plus the new ME documentary Unrest is premiering in Vancouver this May. It seems like people are waking up to the widespread impact of this disease. Now we need research funding and public health policy to catch up, and I want to do what I can to help make that happen.”
In Here I Stand, Ko tells her personal story through music, weaving together everything from pop to opera to Broadway in a show that has something for everyone. Highlights include pieces by Puccini, Verdi, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as songs from the hit musical Hamilton. Ko will be joined onstage by pianist Angus Kellett and several guest artists, and the evening will include a reception as well as a charity raffle contest with over $2,000 in prizes.
HERE I STAND – Saturday, May 13th, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Marpole United Church, 1296 West 67th Avenue, Vancouver
$25 General | $20 Students/Seniors/Disability Benefit | $15 Groups of 4+
Tickets at the door, at operamariposa.com or from Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006
About Opera Mariposa
Opera Mariposa is a Vancouver-based company run by young artists, for young artists. They showcase emerging performers from across Canada and the U.S. in a diverse program of concerts, original shows and fully staged opera and musical theatre productions. Since the company’s inception their annual benefit shows have raised over $35,000 for a variety of charities. In 2016 the company expanded with the launch of the Mariposa Theatre Wing, which presents plays and musical theatre with operatic elements. Learn more at operamariposa.com
About the ME/FM Society of BC
The ME/FM Society of BC is a registered charity working to support people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Fibromyalgia (FM) throughout British Columbia. Their purpose is to educate, inform and increase awareness of ME and FM within the healthcare community, government and public; to provide information, support and advocacy for patients and their families; and to promote state-of-the-art medical research, testing, diagnosis and treatments. Learn more at www.mefm.bc.ca