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Review (and photo) by William Hay
The Lillian Alling opera, music by John Estacio, libretto by John Murrell, was a tremendous world premiere success for the Vancouver Opera. The packed audience of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre gave the grand performance a resounding standing ovation.
Sue Le Page’s sets, with trucks and cabin, unforgettable telegraph men from the Canadian north, city scenes from New York and Vancouver was an inspired backdrop for Kelly Robinson’s Stage Direction.
Mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, playing principal story teller was coupled with soprano, Frederique Vezina, as the young and beautiful Lillian, the Estonian woman who in the 1920’s hiked from New York to Telegraph Creek, British Columbia. In this tale, adapted liberally from the original mystery, Jimmy, played by tenor Roger Honeywell is told how his father, telegrapher Scotty MacDonald, played by baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson contributed to Lillian Alling landing in the Oakalla Prison Farm.
At times the stage seemed filled with the huge cast of thousands of men and women their voices multiplying their numbers. The powerful Forst mezzo soprano entwined with the rich Honeywell tenor while the steady Nicholson baritone and haunting Vezina soprano wove deep tales of sound. The Brooklyn Boys with baritones including Gregory Dahl were as delightful as the Telegraph Men—they were simply genius. The epic music and music of love brought tears to my eyes when music and words united with fully committed voices.
It was an wondrous night. I’d just been in Milan listening to a concert of tenor and piano after visiting the Scala Theatre. I couldn’t help but think that awesome bastion of old world opera could only be made richer by this Canadian new world sensation!
This review first appeared on the writer blog of William Hay.