Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lillian Tweets!

Follow Lillian Alling on Twitter as she makes her journey from the shores of Ellis Island to the mountain peaks of Telegraph Hill. Lillian will be tweeting her thoughts and observations as she makes the perilous trek across North America in search of a man named Jozéf.

What was she thinking? How did she feel? Was she scared? Who does she encounter?

Follow along to find out!

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager
Monday, August 30, 2010

John Murrell on Lillian Alling

"Lillian Alling is a story of a journey, right across the phenomenal breadth of the North American landscape and beyond. Somehow our words and music will have to convey the madness but also the majesty of one woman's dream of walking home to Russia." - John Murrell, Librettist
Friday, August 27, 2010

Props For Lillian Alling

Here's an initial sketch by designer Sue LePage of the props in the upcoming Lillian Alling opera.

Props will include:

* A truck & luggage tarps
* Ellis Island furniture on a dolly
* Canteens & hurricane lanterns
* Telegraph keys
* Canvas packs
* A rain barrel
* Kites
* Burlap prison sacks
* Gold pans
* 3 babies

Sue is working with VO's Head of Props, Valerie Moffat, on figuring out what might already be in our prop shop, what needs to be made and what needs to be purchased.

Valerie thinks the hardest things to find will be the telegraph keys. Also, guns are always a challenge and the rifles used for the Oakalla Prison scene may end up being rented from elsewhere.

For Lillian's ubiquitous backpack, Valerie is on the hunt to find one from that time period (the 1920s) and make replicas, as we will need several of them backstage. Lillian's backpack is an important prop as it speaks of the journey, of packing up and going, and the circumstances that change her along her journey. When Lillian begins her trek, the backpack is almost empty. Like any traveller, as she moves westward, she slowly adds items to her pack. By the time Lillian arrives in Vancouver, it includes a bedroll and camping equipment.

The Lillian Alling prop list is pages long because of the number of scenes and the constant switching of time periods (present day, and flashbacks to 1927, the 1970s, the 1980s). The scenes are also set in different locations: farms, prison, downtown Vancouver and BC's Telegraph Trails.

While it may sound daunting to provide set dressing, accessories and furniture when the sets themselves are not even here (they are currently being built in Banff), it is a challenge that our imaginative and resourceful Valerie Moffat is up for.

Stay tuned for pictures as Valerie sleuths, shops and builds all the little details you will see on the Lillian Alling stage.

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

From New York to Telegraph Creek

Lillian arrives in Brooklyn, as did so many immigrants in the 1920s, only to discover that Jozéf has left for the farmland of North Dakota, in search of better prospects. 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 Jozéf, he is always one step ahead of her. She walks and rides the rails across the vast prairies to the west coast and, ultimately, northward along British Columbia's Telegraph Trail.

"I open my eyes. I pick up my pack. I pick out a path. I never look back. The answers I lack lie further ahead. I never look back." - Lillian Alling

Lillian Alling: The Real Lillian (part 3)

Excerpted with permission from:

Wild West Women: Travellers, Adventurers and Rebels
Written by Rosemary Neering
Published by Whitecap Books Ltd.

Part 3

Amazed at the story he heard, in awe of her tenacity in reaching this far, he was nonetheless quickly convinced that she would die if she continued her journey north into the rapidly approaching winter weather. He telegraphed the provincial police officer in Hazelton, some sixty miles (ninety-five kilometres) south, and asked for advice. George Wyman, a young police constable, set out immediately for Blackstock's Cabin 2. There, he found a woman about five foot five (165 centimetres) and "thin as a wisp," wearing running shoes and carrying a knapsack that contained sandwiches, tea, a comb, and a few other personal effects.

Guy Lawrence, a forty-year veteran of life on the Telegraph Trail, later described this section of the trail in winter: "Sudden heavy falls of snow would bring the line down in several places, over perhaps a seventy-mile stretch. Between Hazelton and Telegraph Creek, some sections were subjected to phenomenal precipitation during the long winter months. Crews at stations at fairly high altitudes made a habit of erecting long poles beside their small refuge cabins to help find them. Many of the mountain passes were subject to snowslides, which snapped poles and buried the wire under sixty feet of snow for the remainder of the winter." Yet, underequipped as she was, as ignorant as she could be of the hazards that faced her, Alling told Wyman she was absolutely determined to continue north.

Wyman would not let her go to what he thought was certain death. He decided to take her with him to Hazelton. Surprisingly, she put up no fight, turning back dumbly to accompany him. Once back in Hazelton, she told Wyman the bare bones of her story, and declared that she would, somehow, continue. Said Wyman many years later, "She was the most determined person I'd ever met." He conferred with his superior officer, Sgt. W.]. Service, who also warned Alling of the severe winter conditions ahead and told her she would in all probability freeze to death. She was not dissuaded. The men knew that the moment that she was released, she would be back on the Telegraph Trail.

Linesman Charlie Janze and his fellow telegraph workers knew what they were talking about when they warned Lillian Alling of the dangers that could be expected by anyone walking the Telegraph Trail. Here, Janze is shown near the Nass-Skeena divide, on the trail in winter. (LANCE BURDON, PHOTOGRAPHER; BCA D-07630)
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Creative Team Behind Lillian Alling

John Estacio has served as Composer in Residence for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Pro Coro Canada, the Calgary Philharmonic and Calgary Opera. His opera, Frobisher, wish libretto by John Murrell, premiered in 2007. Filumena, also with Murrell, premiered in 2003 and was again produced in 2005.

John Murrell is one of the most frequently produced of all Canadian playwrights. His plays have been translated into 15 languages and performed in more than 30 countries. In addition to Filumena and Frobisher with music by John Estacio, Murrell will be the librettist for a new opera commissioned by composer/conductor Bramwell Tovey, to receive its premiere in Calgary Opera's 2010-11 season.

Kelly Robinson is a director and choreographer whose career spans opera, theatre, film and television. In Canada, he has presented new productions of works for opera audiences in Edmonton, Victoria, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver. He was director fo both world premieres of Estacio/Murrell's Filumena and Frobisher.

Winner of two Dora Mavor Awards, Toronto-based designer Sue LePage has worked on more than 100 productions in theatre and opera. Recent opera credits include Frobisher and Filumena for Calgary Opera and The Banff Centre.

An acclaimed lighting designer for more than two and a half decades, Harry Frehner has designed more than 250 productions, including works for theatre, opera and dance companies throughout Canada and the US.

An award-winning projection designer, photographer, videographer, Tim Matheson has used the projection of imagery as an element of the set design in over 100 designs for theatre, opera and dance.
Monday, August 23, 2010

An Excerpt From Lillian Alling: Oakalla

The entrance to Oakalla Prison Farm

Act 1 | Scene 9

Jimmy and Irene are packed in his truck on the side of the road:

Jimmy: They put her in jail? After all she's been through?

Irene: It was prison, not jail. Oakalla, near Vancouver.

Jimmy: For what?

Irene: Vagrancy and an unlicensed firearm.

Jimmy: Didn't Dad speak up for her?

Irene: He tried to, though I don't know why. He didn't ower that woman anything.

Jimmy: She was trying to get on with her life, and they threw her in jail?

Irene: It was prison!

Irene looks past Jimmy - where a vast field at Oakalla Prison gradually appears: male and female prisoners at hard labour, harvesting or cleaning up after harvest. Lillian is among them as armed guards patrol.

Irene: Oakalla Prison Farm. God, the tales they used to tell...

Male and Female Prisoners: (Chanting as they work) Oakalla...

Irene: Oakalla - near Vancouver - but much closer to Hell.

Male and Female Prisoners: (As they work) Oakalla...

Irene moves away from Jimmy, watching Lillian in her imagination. Action continues in both settings:

Jimmy: Mom, what happened to her? You said Dad turned his back on you, risked his own life?...

Irene: Leave it alone, son. It's too complicated. I'm too old. But I've started it now - and it has to be told.

Male and Female Prisoners: (wearily) Mmmm....Mmmm...

Irene: We think we lay the past to rest, but the past lives on...!

It grows darker. Jimmy watches his mother, and she watches Lillian, as prisoners at Oakalla launch into a work song which they've adapted from a hymn. Lillian doesn't join in.

I've found a place of pure delight
Where mercy makes all burdens light
The warden growls from dawn to dark
The guards may bite, the dog's may bark
But, oh, what lovely rags we wear!
They'd be in fashion anywhere!
Oakalla is Paradise!
If Heaven's only half as nice,
I'll whistle through Eternity,
The angels will dance jigs with me!
I'd love to do my time here twice:
Oakalla is Paradise!
(Growning at their work) Aaaah....Ooooo...Mmmmm...

Lillian moves away from the other, closer to Irene, who watches her intently.

Lillian: (to herself)
I wait and I wait...
The answers I lack
Lie further ahead...
I never, I never look back.

The past lives on.
It's beside me,
Here and now...
He has to be told -
But - God help me - how?
Friday, August 20, 2010

Lillian Alling Podcast

Wanna know more about Lillian Alling opera?

Our podcasts are now up!

With music recorded at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, General Director James W. Wright talks about the upcoming world premiere, Lillian Alling.

We are very proud to present the world premiere of our new commissioned opera Lillian Alling, by composer John Estacio and librettist John Murrell. This is the largest and most ambitious production in Vancouver Opera’s 50-year history, and I hope you’ll join us for the excitement of seeing and hearing this important new work for the first time.

Lillian Alling is a Canadian opera through-and-through. All of the creative team and all of the singers are Canadian. The story is rooted in Canadian history and local legend, and its themes connect with our experience. Lillian Alling was a woman who left her homeland in search of a new life, just as so many Canadians have done.

The opera is about quest, courage, and adventure. Its music and words are inspired by the broad and wild landscape of this country.

And it wouldn’t be an opera without high emotion and high drama: an intriguing love interest, treachery and danger!

Click here to listen!

A Film Score Sound

Are you a fan of film scores? Opera is not all about high-hitting arias, recitatives and big showy choral numbers (as opposed to big showy chorus numbers which would include dancing showgirls). Also enjoyable are the overtures and intermezzos where only the orchestra is playing. No voices, no sound effects.

For your listening pleasure, here's a snippet of the orchestral music in Scene 10 of Lillian Alling by John Estacio, libretto by John Murrell. This electronic arrangment is by Emmy nominated composer and conductor Hal Beckett, who turned Estacio's MIDI composition into a realistic orchestral sound.

Beckett has worked on both Bryan Adams and Michael Bublé's albums, as well as produced the 102 national anthems for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Beckett's also conducted and produced music for Universal, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, Disney and Miramax Studios.

This synthesizer arrangement of We Have Had The Rain sounds like it can be found in a big budget Hollywood movie.

If you're digging this clip, just wait to you hear it played by a 60 piece orchestra.

Stay tuned! We'll have another excerpt from the lush and lyrical Lillian Alling score next week.

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager
Monday, August 16, 2010

An Excerpt From Lillian Alling: Ellis Island

Registry Hall, Ellis Island

Act 1 | Scene 2

Like thousands and thousands and thousands of others
She came with hope
But no real plan,
Following a man
And the promises he made
The promises of the New World...

VOICES are heard, offstage and overlapping, but ringing clear:

Italian Voice: Il nome? (My name?)

German Voice: Mein name? (My name?)

Spanish Voice: Me llamo (I am called-)

Another Italian Voice: Mastrangelo!

Another German Voice: Edelssohn!

Another Spanish Voice: Ortega!

Lillian: Mee-nya zah-voot Lillian Alling! (My name is Lillian Alling!)

Jimmy puts the truck in gear and backs out. Irene watches Lillian as long as she can.


Like thousands of others she said to herself,
"I will never again live like before-
Will not be ashamed,
Will not be poor,
Will not be afraid anymore!"

The truck disappears from view.

A swarm of immigrants suddenly surges forward, all around Lillian. It is early spring 1927 on Ellis Island in New York City harbour.

Lillian: Pah-zhal-stuh - Pah-zhal-stuh! (Please - Please!)

All Italians (shouting) / All Germans (at the same time):
Siamo qui (We are here)
Wir suchen (We are seeking)
Per lavoro (For work)
nur Arbeit (Only work)
E Liberta! (And freedom!)
und Freiheit! (And freedom!)

All Spaniards & All Greeks (at the same time):
Venimos (We come)
Ee-ma-steh el-tho (We are here)
Por trabajo (For work)
yia thu-leh-ah (For work)
Y libertad! (And freedom!)
keh eh-lef-the-ria! (And freedom!)

Lillian: (her voice rising above the others, as she pushes forward)
Mee-nya zah-voot Lillian Alling!
And yes, I can speak almost English
I come for to be with Jozef Nikitich
He is here now three yeras,
Work in a factory,
I will work too,
We will be married,
Have money for everything.
I will find him,
No matter how long it takes me,
I will find him,
No matter how far...
My life is bound to his life!
And I will never again live like before,
Will not be ashamed,
Will not be poor,
Will not be afraid any more!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lillian Alling: The Real Lillian (part 2)

Excerpted with permission from:

Wild West Women: Travellers, Adventurers and Rebels
Written by Rosemary Neering
Published by Whitecap Books Ltd.

Part 2

Alling is one of a handful of western women whose legends grow with time, and whose stories are still told around the coffee cups and beer glasses of the regions where they lived or travelled. These women lived lives of pure determination, often in almost total isolation from other people. Some called them eccentric; some called them crazy. They were as little interested in such judgements as they were in other people's advice on what they should do or how they should live. Regardless of the cost, they lived as they wished.

Lillian Alling worked as a maid in New York, a job that did not allow her to save enough money to buy a ticket aboard a ship returning to Europe. Blocked from the simplest way home, she began to develop another plan. In the New York Public Library, she spread out on the table in front of her maps of the United States, Canada and Siberia. She decided she would walk home, north through British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, somehow across the Bering Strait, then through Siberia, the Ural Mountains and home.

The small hill of information available about Lillian Alling's odyssey is dwarfed by the mountain that is unknown. Probably in the spring of1927, she set out on foot from New York, dressed in a stout skirt and shod in sturdy shoes. She seems to have aroused no particular comment among the many who travelled the highways newly built for the ever more popular automobile, or on the old wagon roads or railway tracks, though many must have wondered about this woman who walked alone and steadily west. Later, she said that she had been through Winnipeg, which suggests that she followed a Canadian route along the transcontinental train tracks across the prairies and perhaps through Jasper to Prince George and Smithers, in British Columbia's northwest.

The first absolute fact in the trek of Lillian Alling is that on September 10, 1927, she walked up to a lonely cabin north of Hazelton, the home of Yukon telegraph lineman Bill Blackstock.

Photo credit: Gregory Melle

This photo shows the Telegraph Trail snaking up the hill from the Sheep Creek Cabin, on Lillian Alling's route north. Alling refused to let the rough trail, the weather or the possibility of starvation deter her from her trek. (BCA A-04962)
Friday, August 6, 2010

Project Onto Me

Tim Matheson is an award-winning projection designer, photographer, videographer and multi-media producer. His first foray into live theatre was in 1987 with Vancouver's Fringe Festival. It was at that festival that Tim first used projections as an element of set design. Since then, Tim has been much in demand, having worked over 100 performances in theatre, dance and opera.

And we have him for Lillian Alling.

Here's your first peek at Tim's projections on designer Sue Lepage's set.

The Land is Large

The Land is Large

Ellis Island

Ellis Island


Map set

Inverted map

New York Street

New York Street

Vancouver Street

Vancouver Stanley Park

Does it make you feel like you've traveled back to 1927?

More projections to come. Stay tuned.

~ Ling Chan, Social Media Manager