Opera and gypsy collide in joyful musical journey

Cari Burdett returns to Oak Bay’s Upstairs for a little dramatic gypsy cabaret

Cari Burdett performs at Oak Bay’s Upstairs Lounge Saturday.

When Cari Burdett makes the trek over the Malahat, this time she brings a little dramatic gypsy cabaret to “share passion and joy and the idea of travel through music.

The meld comes in part from her Gypsy roots in Eastern Europe and Ireland. She also holds a masters degree in opera.

“I speak a lot of languages. I wanted to use all those languages and have that dramatic flair of opera with a gypsy troubadour feel and joy mixed with the open, passionate heart of storytelling,” she said. “I can’t be who I’m not. I can’t pretend to be just a folk singer. I’m not in a place in my life right now to do just opera. I really like working with all the musicians I’m working with.

“I wanted to share more of my music so I had to find a way to share my passion and this is the way it came out.”

Burdett grew up in Victoria and has quite a following in the region. Her last Upstairs Lounge performance was the CD launch for Magnolia.

“That was really fun, but a slightly different ensemble,” she said.

The violinist is the same, Richard Moody, who will also perform on viola, and she brings Adrian Dolan (accordion and piano), who performed on the album, as well as Peter Mynett on stand-up bass.

“I really wanted the sound of gypsy with the accordion and violin,” Burdett said.

This show will feature some of that work and some from the in-the-works album she wrote herself, such as the song Open Our Hearts.

“They will not have heard it unless they saw me this summer. It’s not recorded yet and it’s my own original song. Including them in this program is raw and vulnerable and exciting,” she said. “It has to do with chasing our dreams and being more true to be myself. When you’re an opera singer and trained in the classical world you just have this schooling to try and be perfect. I’m trying to give myself permission to explore different parts of myself and have more curiosity and courage and vulnerability to share my own songs.”

That writing allows for more open doors or “wings to fly.”

“It’s working for me in terms of the crossover,” Burdett said, adding the Oak Bay performance comes after a previous weekend of entirely jazz.

“It’s definitely an eclectic mix of genres but it really is who I am, instead of being afraid of who I am,” she said.

A troubadour, performing and teaching across Canada, Europe, USA and China, Burdett’s multifaceted education includes classical voice, new music, opera, vocal improvisation, art song, dance, acting and musical theatre. Her impressive awards include the 2016 Vancouver Island Music Awards Vocalist of the Year.

“Those validations are like little support hugs,” Burdett said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t do it without that, but they definitely give you an extra little wink and extra ‘keep going.’ But even without those there’s no choice not to do this. It’s part of my raison d’être, my mission in life.”

Oak Bay marks a part of Cari Burdett’s Wild is the Wind five-show Island tour showcasing her fusion of world, jazz, cabaret and opera. The tour starts with the Harvest of Music Festival in Qualicum Beach with Ron Hadley, Tony Booker and friends. The remaining dates are together with Dolan, Moody and Mynett on Salt Spring Island before hitting Oak Bay. The tour continues to Cumberland and finishes on Gabriola Island.

“I think the idea that there are fewer players and an intimate venue you get to have this cabaret experience,” Burdett said. “There’s something really special about these smaller venues where the connection between the audience and performers creates a magic. That’s important to me to have a strong connection with the audience and take them on a journey.”

Get a taste of the music at cariburdett.com online.

Burdett performs Oct. 21 at 7:30 in the Upstairs Lounge at Oak Bay Recreation Centre. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Get tickets at www.beaconridgeproductions.com, Oak Bay Recreation Centre reception and Ivy’s Bookshop.