Monday, September 8, 2008

Photos from First Lillian Alling Workshop

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Creators

John Estacio: Composer
John Murrell: Librettist
Kelly Robinson: Dramaturge & Stage Director

John Estacio: Composer
John Estacio has served as Composer in Residence for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Pro Coro Canada, the Calgary Philharmonic and Calgary Opera. He has written for the Vancouver Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, CBC Radio Orchestra, the 2001 Banff International String Quartet Competition and he composed the scores for productions of Othello and Twelfth Night at the Citadel Theatre. The Houston Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Royal Conservatory Orchestra, Orchestra London, and Thunder Bay Symphony are some of the ensembles who have performed his works.

His most recent opera, Frobisher, with libretto by John Murrell, premièred in Calgary and Banff in 2007. His first opera, Filumena, also with Murrell, premièred in 2003 and was re-produced in 2005 at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa; at the 2005 Banff Summer Arts Festival; and at Edmonton Opera. Filumena was filmed for television and received its national television première in 2006.

John Estacio studied music and composition at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of British Columbia. He began his professional career after receiving an award in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Canadian Composers Competition, in 1992. His choral work Eulogies received the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors’ 1999National Choral Awards for Outstanding Choral Composition. He has also received the Syncrude Award for innovative artistic direction for the Young Composers Project, which he initiated while at the ESO. Estacio has received numerous SOCAN Awards for Young Composers and has twice received SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award.

John Estacio currently resides in Edmonton. He recently premièred a cantata by four different choirs and is at work on his second symphony (Victoria Symphony), his third opera (Vancouver Opera), and his first film score, for the upcoming film The Secret of the Nutcracker.

John Murrell: Librettist
John Murrell is one of the most frequently produced of Canadian playwrights, as well as a highly respected arts advocate, mentor and consultant. His plays have been translated into 15 languages and performed in more than 30 countries around the world. He has worked as head of the Banff Playwrights Colony (1986–89), as head of the Theatre Section of the Canada Council for the Arts (1988–92), as artistic director/executive producer of Theatre Arts at the Banff Centre (1999–2005) and as executive artistic director of Performing Arts at the Banff Centre (2005–2007). His work for the stage includes Waiting For The Parade, Memoir, Farther West, Democracy, and The Faraway Nearby.

In February of 2003, the successful new opera Filumena, a co-production between The Banff Centre and Calgary Opera, with music by John Estacio and libretto by Murrell, was premièred in Calgary and in Banff. Filumena was produced by The Banff Centre in April 2005 as the centrepiece of The Alberta Scene at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Presented by Edmonton Opera in November 2005, Filumena was filmed for CBC-TV’s Opening Night series and has twice been nationally telecast. Frobisher enjoyed its world première at Calgary Opera in 2007.

Kelly Robinson: Dramaturge & Stage Director
Kelly Robinson is a director and choreographer whose career spans opera, theatre, film and television. He has worked extensively in the United States with critically acclaimed productions of Die Zauberflöte, La bohème and La belle Hélène for the opera companies of Dallas, Utah, Portland and Arizona to his credit. In Canada, he has presented opera audiences in Edmonton, Victoria, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver with new productions of works ranging from Les pêcheurs de perles and Eugene Onegin to Britten’s The Turn Of The Screw and La Cenerentola. Kelly Robinson’s work has been seen at the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), Canadian Stage Company (Toronto), the Palace Theatre (New York), the Vineyard Theatre (New York) and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre. He is currently Director of Theatre Arts at The Banff Centre.
Kelly Robinson made his directorial début in London’s West End with the world première of Peggy Sue Got Married. His successful productions of The Sound Of Music and Guys And Dolls at Ontario’s renowned Stratford Festival broke all attendance records. He has staged Sweeney Todd for Calgary Opera and Arizona Opera, Le nozze di Figaro for The Banff Centre, Un ballo in maschera for L’Opéra de Québec, Roméo et Juliette for Opera Ontario and the Canadian première of Dead Man Walking and the world premières of Filumena and Frobisher for Calgary Opera.

Excerpt 1

LILLIAN. (Continuing a thought)
This land is large and wild and fine,
Such freedom I never knew before…
Here, it is always all right to ask for more…
But I am bound to a promise
That I made long ago and far away.
Until that promise is kept,
Nothing –
Nothing will stand in my way.
SCOTTY. You promised Joseph –
SCOTTY. To be his wife –
LILLIAN. More than that.
My life is bound to his life.
SCOTTY. He left you in the lurch twice before.
LILLIAN. He did not know when I come –
Or if I could come at all.
Maybe he thought I would forget.
Maybe he forgot –
SCOTTY. That can’t be true.
Not you.
LILLIAN. You are a good man, Scotty,
But you do not understand.
SCOTTY. I understand that you owe him nothing –
Nothing! Not anymore!
(Getting more and more worked up)
Your life is not bound to his life.
If he wanted you for his wife,
He would have waited in Brooklyn,
He would have waited in Dakota,
He would have waited in Russia
Till both of you could leave!
Look at me, Lillian,
Do you really believe
he’s waiting in Telegraph Creek?
He’s been playing a game of hide-and-seek!
How many more continents will you chase him across?
Never mind – go on – go on and find Jozéf!
Why should I care? It’s your loss!
No…it’s my loss… (He stands and moves away.)
LILLIAN. You do not understand.
SCOTTY. (Turning to her) Then tell me!


Lillian Alling workshop schedule

Workshop #1 October 9 – 13 2007

Complete libretto for Act I, outline for Act II

Materials due September 25

Workshop #2 March 16 – 20 2008

Complete libretto for Acts I and II

Materials due March 3

Workshop #3 September 22 – 27 2008

Revisions of complete libretto; 30minutes minimum of music

Materials due September 8

Workshop #4 May 3 – 8 2009 (revised dates)

Piano/vocal score for Act I; revisions to complete libretto

Materials due March 16

Workshop #5 December 7 – 12 2009 (revised dates)

Piano/vocal score for Acts I and II; complete revisions to libretto

Materials due November 23

Note: Premiere date changed from Feb 2010 to Nov 2010, this revises dates for final two workshops.

Dramatus Personae


An Opera in Two Acts (Fourteen Scenes)

Music by John Estacio
Libretto by John Murrell

CHARACTERS IN THE OPERA (in order of their appearance):

IRENE, 78 years old in 1980
JIMMY, her son, 50 years old in 1980

All other Characters are in 1927-1928 or earlier:
LILLIAN ALLING, in her 20s
who arrive with Lillian at Ellis Island, both genders, various ages
A MAN IN A DARK SUIT, who follows Lillian briefly (non-singing)

NORA, his Irish wife, in her 20s
THEIR THREE CHILDREN, all very young

STREET CORNER BOYS (8 or more) in Brooklyn, all young
BOBBY, one of the Boys
A FEMALE PASSERBY, in Brooklyn, any age

SHADOWY FIGURES from Lillian’s past: A MAN, A WOMAN,
A YOUNG BOY (Lillian’s father, mother, and brother);
SOLDIERS; a DARK MAN (Jozéf) – (non-singing)
A DRIFTER on the American prairies, in his 40s

NORWEGIAN MEN and WOMEN, immigrant farmers in North Dakota,
various ages
KARL, one of them, in his 50s
KRISTIAN, his son, in his 20s

SCOTTY MACDONALD, a young telegraph operator, in his 20s
BILL, another telegraph operator, in his 30s
CHARLIE, the same, in his 20s
SAM, the same, in his 40s
CONSTABLE WYMAN, a policeman, in his 40s

MALE and FEMALE PRISONERS at Oakalla Prison farm,
various ages

VANCOUVERITES, both genders, various ages

JOZÉF NIKITICH LAZINSKY, for real, in his 30s

The action of the opera takes place in 1980, in 1927 and 1928, and several years earlier (in flashback) – in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada, in several locales in the United States, and in rural Russia (in flashback).
Monday, September 1, 2008

Meet Our Lillian

Vancouver Opera has set up a new website blog for our world premiere commission of Lillian Alling, a new work by John Estacio and John Murrell, set to premiere as part of our 50th Anniversary in the fall of 2010.

Which you know, 'cause you are here.

On this new site you'll find a synopsis of the show, info on the creators, a cast of characters, and a sample of this new work! You'll also see the schedule of workshops and be able to get updates on how and what we are doing on this very exciting new piece.

New materials will be added on a regular basis, especially now that we are in a heavy workshop period, so you'll want to visit Lillian often for all the latest, including pics, video, sound samples, and more on this remarkable woman!

Join Lillian Alling on her journey to Vancouver Opera and beyond!



Act One The opera opens in the interior of BC. It’s 1980 and Irene is packing up her beloved cabin grudgingly to move to the city for better care. As she bids goodbye to her familiar surroundings, her son Jimmy discovers an old-fashioned spinning top — a top that puts into motion the story of a woman Irene once knew: the story of Lillian Alling, a young woman from Russia who sets off to find her husband, Jozèf, who had emigrated to America ahead of her.

Suddenly we are swept into the New York of the 1920s.

Lillian arrives in Brooklyn, as did so many immigrants, only to discover that Jozèf has left for better prospects in the farmland of North Dakota. Having no money, she finds a map at the New York Public Library and decides she will walk to meet him. But as she pursues Jozèf, he is always one step ahead of her: across the vast prairies to the west coast and, ultimately, northward along BC’s Telegraph Trail. The men she encounters along the way document her path: the golden-haired Norwegian farmer’s son Kristian; gnarly Constable Wyman who throws her in the Oakalla Prison Farm; spirited telegraphers Bill and Charlie, Sam and the determined Scotty Macdonald, who reports Lillian to Constable Wyman.

Scotty Macdonald…but that’s Jimmy’s father! As present day collides with the past, the spinning top throws Jimmy’s own history into question.

Act Two opens in spring of 1928. Lillian has been released from custody and, intent on resuming her journey, has taken a job in a downtown Vancouver café. When Scotty Macdonald walks in one day, Lillian is shocked, and wants nothing to do with him, but Scotty is persistent. He explains that he betrayed her in order to save her from death in the wilds. Their friendship grows, and Lillian finally reveals why she is searching for Jozéf. It is not what Scotty imagined. The opera ends with a surprising revelation from Irene and a final cathartic confrontation on the banks of the Skeena River.

“I open my eyes. I pick up my pack. I pick out a path.
I never look back. I take the first step. The answers I lack
lie further ahead. I never look back.” – Lillian Alling