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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lillian Alling in Banff

Leslie Dala
Leslie Dala, VO's Associate Conductor and Chorus Director, sends this postcard from Banff, where he is preparing to conduct Lillian Alling.

The falls at Johnston Canyon
For the past four weeks, I have been in Banff rehearsing Lillian Alling in anticipation of the opening night performance this Thursday at the Banff Summer Festival  which brings together artists from around the world who participate in the opera and orchestral training programs.

Although this is the same piece that Vancouver Opera commissioned and premiered in the fall, the Banff production has a whole new cast of young artists and an orchestra that is assembled for two concert programs and two operas each summer. Quite the undertaking in a very concentrated period of time.

Kelly Robinson, John Estacio
and John Murrell
The creators, composer John Estacio and librettist John Murrell have been with us over the past couple of weeks and it is wonderful to have them present in our rehearsals to make sure that every note and every word is being presented just the way they imagined them to be.

Judith Forst
Kelly Robinson, the stage director for Lillian is also the Artistic Director of the Theatre Arts Department and has directed all three of John Estacio's and John Murrell's operas, so we could not be in better hands. As well, Judith Forst is back from the original cast in the pivotal role of Irene Macdonald. She is, of course, one of Canada's greatest and most celebrated singers and it is both an honour and a treat to have her reprise her role here with us. Although I have had the good fortune to work with Judi on a number of show at Vancouver Opera (Jenufa, Elektra, Salome, Les Dialogues des Carmelites), this is my first time being in the pit with her on stage, which is a dream come true!

L - R: Leslie Dala, Melanie Krueger,
Theresa Tsang, Kinza Tyrrell
As well, there are a number of key players in the Banff production with strong ties to Vancouver Opera. All of us have been given the chance to step it up a notch: 

Melanie Krueger, last seen on the VO stage as Annina in La Traviata, sings the title role of Lillian Alling and is doing a wonderful job on an incredibly challenging and complex role. Melanie was, in fact, a member of the chorus for the VOA world premiere so this is really a promotion!

Theresa Tsang, VO's assistant stage manager is THE stage manager for this show and it is great to have her in charge of the million things that go on in this show. She is always in control!

Kinza Tyrrell, VO's principal repetiteur and VOIS music director, is the assistant conductor and chorus director of this production and has done a wonderful job with the young singers in the program. Although the size of the chorus here is much smaller than we had for the VOA premiere, they bring a lot of energy to this production.

Encounter with a black bear on the highway to Lake Louise
For me, it is wonderful to return to a place that I first came to in 1994 and which, quite literally, changed my life.

It was here that I met my wife, Rosalind and where I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in opera. It was also the place where I met conductor, David Agler, who was then Music Director of Vancouver Opera and who later invited me to join the music staff of the company. As they say "the rest is history". David is now the Artistic Director of the Wexford Festival and the Banff Opera as Theatre program and he is conducting Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte which will open on Friday night.

Canoeing on Lake Louise with my boys,
Andreas and Christopher
Another personal tidbit is that both my sons, Christopher (7) and Andreas (5) are appearing in this production.

Christopher was in the VOA premiere in a number of scenes, including Ellis Island, scene 3 where the kids sing the famous line: "mamma, she smells like the river", the North Dakota scene and in Stanley Park. With the addition of Andreas in the show, Sergei's line in scene 3 has changed to: "I present my wife Nora and FOUR children". Amazing what can happen in a few months!

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