Lillian Alling
Composer: John Estacio
Composer Bio: Born to parents of Portuguese descent, John Estacio was born in Newmarket, Ontario and raised in the farming community of the Holland Marsh. While growing up, John took private lessons on piano and accordion and cut his teeth in performance playing the church organ every Sunday. He developed a bug for composing in his teenage years creating soundtracks for short films that he and his school buddies created. He continued to work on his performance chops by playing trumpet and taking roles in high school musicals (Aurora High School 1980-85). But he knew composition was what his heart desired.

He attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario where he majored in composition, 1985-1989. While at WLU he studied composition with Glenn Buhr and Peter Hatch and piano with Boyd MacDonald. Between 1989-1991 he earned his Masters of Music at University of British Columbia where he studied composition with Stephen Chatman.

He recently completed arrangements of Seven Songs by Jean Sibelius for performance by Ben Heppner and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta and is at work on his second opera, Frobisher, to be premiered in Calgary 2007.
Librettist: John Murrell
Librettist Bio: John Murrell, OC, AOE, is internationally renowned as one of the most frequently produced of all Canadian playwrights. He is also a highly respected arts advocate, mentor and consultant. His plays have been translated into 15 different languages and performed in more than 30 countries worldwide.

He has worked as Playwright-in-Residence at both Theatre Calgary and Alberta Theatre Projects, as an Associate Director of the Stratford Festival of Canada, as Head of the Banff Playwrights Colony, as Head of the Theatre Section of The Canada Council for the Arts and since November 1999, as Artistic Director/Executive Producer of Theatre Arts at The Banff Centre.

Murrell’s work has received many awards, both nationally and internationally. His most recent projects are a play about Friedrich Nietzsche for The Shaw Festival of Canada and a second opera with John Estacio entitled FROBISHER (working title) scheduled to debut at the 2006 Banff Summer Arts Festival.
Other Artistic Personnel: Kelly Robinson, Dramaturg and Stage Director
Original Cast: Lillian Alling, Irene, Jimmy, Scotty, Sergei/Constable Wyman, Bobby/Kristian/Charlie, Jozef/Drifter, Karl/Sam
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: October 16, 2010
Producing Company: Vancouver Opera
Description: “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

The opera opens in the interior of British Columbia. It’s 1980 and Irene is packing up her beloved cabin to grudgingly 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 she once knew: the story of Lillian Alling, a young woman from Russia who sets off to find her husband, Józef, 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 Józef 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 there. But as she pursues Jozef he is always one step ahead of her: across the vast prairies to the 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, Charlie, Jim and the determined Scotty Macdonald.

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 the 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. As Scotty explains that he betrayed her in order to save her from death in the wilds, he wins Lillian’s forgiveness and eventually earns her love. But Lillian is bound to Józef through a promise – her life is bound to his life, not by love but by hate. As Scotty learns Lillian’s secret and her truth, he agrees to help her make the journey to Telegraph Creek.

In love with Scotty, Lillian can’t bear to involve him in her desperate plan and so she sets out alone tackling the wilderness, rocky terrain and treacherous river crossings. With Scotty in hot pursuit, they arrive simultaneously in a forest clearing to confront Józef. It is in the Canadian wilderness that they will resolve Lillian’s past and begin Irene’s future.
Length: 03:00
Total Acts: 2
Musical Style: Classical, romantic
Contact: Tom Wright, Vancouver Opera
E-mail Address:
Phone: 604-331-4841
Composer Web Site:
The Opera Fund Awardee Information
Award Category: 2007 Canadian Opera Creation F Development
Project Name: Lillian Alling
Awardee: Vancouver Opera Association
Director: Kelly Robinson
Conductor: Jonathan Darlington
Award Category: 2009 Canadian Opera Creation F Development
Project Name: Lillian Alling
Awardee: Vancouver Opera Association
Director: Kelly Robinson
Conductor: Jaques Lacombe
Schedule of Performances Listings
Lillian Alling (Estacio)
Saturday, October 16, 2010 - Vancouver Opera
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