Friday, October 10, 2008

Lillian Alling Comes To Life

Recently VO held the third workshop for our new opera – Lillian Alling. Composed by John Estacio to a libretto by John Murrell, this full-length, main stage opera will have its world premiere in Vancouver in October 2010.

It takes a long time to commission, compose, prepare and present a new opera!

The first two workshops were held to fine-tune the libretto – the “script” of the opera. Excellent Vancouver-based actors portrayed the characters, reciting what John Murrell had written. Murrell and Estacio, along with dramaturge Kelly Robinson, listened carefully, tweaked passages here and there, and ended up with a libretto that was ready for Estacio to turn into opera music.

This time, Vancouver singers worked their way through more than 30 minutes of John E’s music – starting from the very beginning of the opera and getting about half way through Act I, including a stirring scene set at Ellis Island (the US gateway for immigrants in the 1920s) where people from across Europe sing of their desire to find freedom and security; a lilting, Tin Pan Alley-type song sung by young men on the sidewalks of Brooklyn; and a beautiful, moving “big act one aria” for Lillian herself.

New pages of music were written every evening for the singers to digest overnight and bring to the rehearsal hall the next day. Ideas were tossed out, then thrown out, then modified and tried again; new measures of music took their place. At then end of the week, all of us felt we had a very solid first third or so of the opera, and all of us are becoming more and more excited about Lillian Alling.

Now John Estacio goes to work on the next chunk of music – the rest of Act I and, I imagine, into Act II, in preparation for the next music workshop in May. There will be a final work shopping of the entire work, with a full piano/vocal score, in December 2009. In the meantime, Kelly Robinson, who is also staging the opera for us, and who is Director of Theatre Arts at the Banff Centre, will be working there on some of the chorus scenes.

Stay tuned for more information on this exciting new opera commissioned by VO. You’ll learn more about the “real” Lillian and her trek across Canada, incarceration at Oakalla work farm outside Vancouver, and further trials and tribulations. And you will be able to follow the progress of the “operatic” Lillian brought to life by the magic of John Murrell and John Estacio.