Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lillian Alling: The Land Is Large

Lillian Alling is the story of a woman who walks from New York City to Vancouver and beyond, alone and driven by a motive shrouded in mystery. In John Estacio's original score for the work, we hear the chaos of Ellis Island, the jump and sway of New York City, and in a key piece of music we'll discuss today, the joy and wonder of the wide open land.

"With 'The Land Is Large', I wanted to convey Lillian's enjoyment of the countryside. Despite the fact that she is all alone on her journey and with the fear and trepidation that accompanies undertaking such a trek, she still marvels at her surroundings," says Estacio.

"Having composed a few operas already, I've learned that the scenic design in my mind always ends up costing ten times more than the budget allows," says Estacio. "So instead of imagining what the scene will look like on stage, I focus on the emotions and the motivations of the characters -- what is going on inside of these individuals while they're on stage as opposed to what the scenery looks like around them."

The land is large and smooth and green.
I hear many birds, I hear no war.
Such quiet I have not heard before…
A place of questions, not answers,
Of mistakes they do not call sins.
Here nothing,
Nothing is ending.
Everything begins!

The sample attached to this post is from a recording made early in the composition process with just a piano. So how do we get from this simple piano and vocal version to the final product we'll hear at the world premiere?

"Once I've finished the piano/vocal score, I start at the beginning again and write all the orchestral music. It's probably not the most efficient way to write an opera, but it works for me," smiles Estacio. The additional material in the score are the orchestral 'sound effects' and new rhythmic figures that enhance the sense of Lillian's motion as she walks along her path.

"What you do hear in the sample already is a moment when Lillian refers to the telegraph wires that she is following on her journey," he points out, "At that point there is a quick little burst of telegraphic rhythms from the piano (2:45) -- a short foreshadowing to the music that occurs later in Act 1 when we meet the telegraph operators, including Scotty Macdonald."

We've just received the first act score from John with all the orchestration and we are thrilled and excited by what we see and can hear in our mind's ear as we gather around the table to read over it. We think you will be too. So please have a listen to this sneak sample of 'The Land Is Large' from our upcoming world premiere opera Lillian Alling, music by John Estacio and libretto by John Murrell.

Please join us in October to see how it all comes together.

~ Image Source