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.

Shortly after graduating from UBC, he completed his first major orchestral work, Visoes da Noite, which became a finalist in the Winnipeg Symphony’s first Canadian Composers Competition (1992). Although he did not win the competition, he placed second and received a prize that included a commission for a new orchestral work for the WSO, Saudades, which the orchestra premiered at their New Music Festival in the following year. The WSO competition in 1992 was the first professional performance of one of his works by and it was also the first time a piece of his was aired on the CBC. This performance by the WSO brought Estacio to the attention of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

In 1992 the ESO was searching for their first Composer in Residence. Estacio was initially hired to be in residence for ten weeks. However, this residency eventually lasted 8 seasons (1992-2000). During his residency in Edmonton, Estacio created several orchestral works to be premiered by the ESO. He also participated in various outreach activities including school concerts, audience outreach programs, and the Young Composers Project that he started in 1995. In 1998, Estacio was also in residence with Pro Coro Canada and created two works for the choir, Ziggurat (1998) with a libretto by Timothy J. Anderson, and Eulogies (2000) with text by Val Brandt. Eulogies received the Association of Canadian Choral Conductor’s National Choral Awards for Outstanding Choral Composition.

During his tenure with the ESO, he created A Farmer’s Symphony which the orchestra performed on their Northern Lights Tour in 1994 with stops in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Whitehorse. In 1997 he composed a Triple Concerto for the opening gala concert of the Winspear Centre for Music in Edmonton. That same year, he also received the Syncrude Award for innovative artistic direction for the Young Composers Project. He composed Frenergy (1998) which has become one of his often performed compositions. Several of the works Estacio composed during his residency can be found on the album titled Frenergy; the Music of John Estacio, released on CBC Records and performed by the ESO and Mario Bernardi.

In 2000, Estacio moved to Calgary and started a residency with the Calgary Philharmonic and the Calgary Opera. During his residency, he continued many of the projects in Calgary that he had started in his previous residency with Edmonton. He composed Solaris, Bottlegger’s Tarantella and Spring’s Promise for the CPO. His most notable achievement of the Calgary tenure, however, was his opera Filumena which he created with librettist John Murrell. He composed Filumena between 2001-2003 and it was premiered in Calgary February 1, 2003. The opera has since gone on to be performed twice at the Banff Summer Festival (2003, 2005), the National Arts Centre, and the Edmonton Opera. It was filmed for television and broadcast on the CBC network in March 2006.

During his tenures in Edmonton and Calgary, he also composed for other performers and ensembles including the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Banff International String Quartet Competition (2001), Nora Bumanis and Julia Shaw, Gwen Hoebig and David Moroz, and the Penderecki String Quartet. His compositions have been performed by several of the major orchestras in Canada, as well as orchestras in Manila, the Houston Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the Rochester Philharmonic.

In 2003 he received his first JUNO Nomination for Best Classical Composition for his string quartet Test Run. The Frenergy CD, a compilation of music he composed while in Calgary and Edmonton, was nominated for two JUNO awards. He received SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award in 2004 and 2005. He has also received Young Composer Awards from SOCAN and PROCAN in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1994.

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. Other upcoming commissions include a symphony for the Victoria Symphony and a new opera for the Vancouver Opera.
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.
Premiere Date: January 27, 2007
Producing Company: The Banff Centre
Description: Anna and Michael are successful young filmmakers from Alberta, married in life and in art. Their latest project is a movie about Martin Frobisher, Elizabethan pirate and explorer who made three perilous journeys to the Arctic in the 1570s.

History says that Frobisher failed in his attempt to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a quick route through the American continent to the Asian silk and spice markets; but Michael believes that Frobisher was actually after something much more exotic and alluring: an untouched tropical Paradise, rumoured to exist in the vicinity of the North Pole. He wants to make a film about this impossible quest, even though Anna is convinced they are risking both their reputation as artists and any money that they invest in this scheme.

While scouting locations for the film near Baffin Island, Michael wanders away into an Arctic storm and is never seen again. With the support of her mother Jessica, who is also in the film business, Anna tries hard to accept the loss of Michael, and to move on, but she is tormented by the fact that she and Michael never resolved their disagreement about the Frobisher film. She feels, in spite of her misgivings about the concept, she must finish the script and get the movie made, to honour the memory of her husband and artistic partner.

Martin Frobisher himself, as well as Michael, has begun to haunt Anna’s dreams, compelling her to tell the “true story” of his mad but exhilarating search for Earthly Paradise. Anna envisions Frobisher’s struggle to convince Elizabeth I of England to pay for his third and final Arctic voyage, and this inspires Anna to visit a chic film festival in the Rockies, where she struggles to convince Stephen Wagman, a wealthy American producer, to bankroll Michael’s movie. Fueled by Frobisher’s dream, as though it were her own, Anna manages to get financing for her film.

In the Arctic again, Anna becomes more and more obsessed by the vision of “a dream beyond the bonds of life” which drove both her husband and an infamous Elizabethan pirate to risk death and destruction. Ultimately, when her mother shuts down work on the Frobisher film, because of its mushrooming cost and the dangers that cast and crew are facing, Anna decides to pursue the mad dream Northward, alone in a small boat.

Beyond the bonds of life, Anna finds Michael again and he tries to persuade her that she must return to life: her work there is not yet finished; she has more stories to tell to the living world. At the very border of existence, Anna quarrels with Michael. She wants to stay with him, in a place where the confusion and pain of life are past.

Meanwhile, Stephen Wagman, the film’s producer, has given up on Anna and decides to provide his own “Hollywood ending” for Frobisher’s cinematic saga, to the disgust of Anna’s mother, colleagues, and friends.

These parallel stories of the quest for larger-than-life adventure and bliss — one set in the sixteenth century, and one in the twenty-first — are ultimately resolved in a final scene which is both heart-breaking and hopeful. Anna’s, Michael’s, and Frobisher’s stories come to rest in a harbour of dreams, where life’s risks are outweighed by its possibilities.
Character List (Major): Anna(s), Michael(t), Martin Frobisher(bar), Jessica(mz), Elizabeth Tudor(mz), Kate(s), Mark(t), Trevor(bar)
Character List (Minor): Three Film People(s, mz, t), Trio of Wagmanites(s, t, bar)
Bit Parts: Film People, Wagmanites, Frobisher's Crew, Anna's Film Crew, Inuit Huntsmen and Guides
Length: 02:00
Total Acts: 2
Chorus: SATB Chorus
Orchestration: 2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bsn - 4 hrn, 2 tpt, 3 tbn, 1 tba - timp, 2 perc - pf, cel, hpschd, hp - str
Contact: John Estacio
E-mail Address:
Composer Web Site:
The Opera Fund Awardee Information
Award Category: 2004 Canadian Opera Creation F Repertoire Development
Project Name: Frobisher
Awardee: Banff Centre, The
Director: Kelly Robinson
Award Category: 2005 Canadian Opera Creation F Development
Project Name: FROBISHER
Awardee: Banff Centre, The
Director: Kelly Robinson
Conductor: Bramwell Tovey
Designer: Dany Lyne, Harry Frehner
Audio Visual Materials

From left to right: Leslie Davis (Queen Elizabeth), Benjamin Covey (Frobisher)
Courtesy of: Banff Centre; Photo credit: Don Lee

From left to right: Benjamin Covey (Frobisher)
Courtesy of: Banff Centre; Photo credit: Don Lee

From left to right: Christina Tannous (Anna), Benjamin Covey (Frobisher), Leslie Davis (Queen Elizabeth)
Courtesy of: Banff Centre; Photo credit: Don Lee

From left to right: Christina Tannous (Anna)
Courtesy of: Banff Centre; Photo credit: Don Lee
Schedule of Performances Listings
Frobisher (Estacio)
Saturday, January 27, 2007 - Calgary Opera Association
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