Lillian Alling

Cast of Characters



Lillian Alling, soprano

Irene, mezzo-soprano

Scotty, Brooklyn Boy, baritone

Jimmy, tenor

Sergei, Constable Wyman, Jozéf, baritone

Bobby, Kristian, Billy, tenor

Karl, Sam, Brooklyn Boy, bass-baritone

Brooklyn Boy, Drifter, Charlie, tenor/high baritone

Nora, mezzo-soprano

Passerby, soprano

Sergei’s children, child-soprano

Immigrants at Ellis Island, Brooklyn Boy 1 (solo), Farm Folk in North Dakota, Oakalla Prisoners, Vancouverites, SATB Chorus


2 Flutes (2nd doubles on Piccolo)

2 Oboes (2nd doubles on English horn)

2 Clarinets (second doubles on Bass Clarinet)

2 Bassoons

4 Horns in F

2 Trumpets in C

2 Trombones

Bass Trombone



2 Percussion


Piano/Celesta/Electronic Keyboard


Bande (offstage, taken from the orchestra: 1 Clarinet, 1 Violin, 1 Bass Trombone, 1 Keyboard)

Percussion consists of:

 Vibraphone, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Chimes,

Suspended Cymbals S,M,L, Crash Cymbals, 3 Triangles S,M,L, Bell Tree,

Snare Drum, 4 Wood Blocks, 4 Tom Toms, Bass Drum


ACT I, ca. 75’

ACT II, ca. 55’

Programme Notes

Lillian Alling Synopsis

Music by John Estacio
Libretto by John Murrell

Act One

In the mountains of British Columbia in 1980, Irene and her son Jimmy pack up Irene’s beloved cabin, in preparation for moving her to the city for better care. Jimmy discovers an old-fashioned spinning top. Irene reveals it once belonged to Lillian Alling, a mysterious woman who disappeared into the wilderness more than fifty years ago. As Jimmy debates whether to keep the top or throw it out, Irene recalls Lillian’s story. She tells the tale as they begin their drive to the city.

In New York in 1927, Lillian Alling, newly-arrived from Russia and in search of Jozèf, is lost in a crowd of other immigrants at Ellis Island. She eventually finds her way to the Brooklyn apartment of Sergei, Jozèf’s brother. Sergei and his wife reluctantly reveal that Jozèf is in North Dakota and advise Lillian to abandon her search. Lillian refuses. She sets off to find maps and continue her search, on foot.

Irene continues to tell Jimmy the story of Lillian’s journey through the American mid-west and prairies.

Lillian, having travelled for some time, sees a wanderers’ camp in the dark, and a young boy playing with a top like the one Jimmy found in Irene’s house. The camp and the boy disappear. Lillian continues her journey and meets a drifter who teaches her to hop freight trains.

Lillian arrives on the northern prairies and encounters a group of Norwegian immigrant farmers, who reveal that Jozèf had lived with them for some time before leaving without warning the previous month. Lillian discovers that Jozèf planned to cross the border into Canada to pan for gold in Telegraph Creek, British Columbia. Kristian, one of the Norwegians, cautions her to abandon her search but Lillian remains resolute and vows to follow him.

As Kristian leaves Lillian in the darkness, she again sees the camp and the young boy, which disappear as Irene continues her narration.

Scotty, Sam, Charlie and Bill, telegraph linemen, exchange news of a mysterious woman who has been seen along the Telegraph Trail. Lillian approaches Scotty’s cabin and enters, startling him. Jimmy, astonished, realizes that the Scotty of Irene’s story is his father.

As Lillian and Scotty talk, Constable Wyman appears, having been called by Scotty. Wyman searches Lillian and finds a small pistol hidden in her clothes. He arrests her immediately and has her sent to Oakalla Prison Farm, near Vancouver. Irene falls silent as Jimmy gently hands her the spinning top.

Act Two

As Jimmy and Irene resume their journey, Irene continues the story of Lillian Alling.

It is 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, and wants nothing to do with him, but Scotty is persistent. He explains that he betrayed her in order to save her from death in the wilds. Their friendship grows, and Lillian finally reveals why she is searching for Jozéf. It is not what Scotty imagined. The opera ends with a surprising revelation from Irene and a final cathartic confrontation on the banks of the Skeena River.



Audio Samples



Premiere performance October 16, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver B.C.


Subsequent Performances

Vancouver Opera

Jacques Lacombe, music director

Stage direction by Kelly Robinson

October 16, 19, 21, 23, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver B.C.


Banff Summer Festival

Les Dala, music director

Stage direction by Kelly Robinson

August 18, 20, 20112010

Eric Harvie Theatre, Banff, Alberta




"There is something inherently optimistic about this music" - Globe and Mail

"An enchanting show" - Vancouver Sun

"Undeniable electricity" - Georgia Straight


Score/Parts Rental

For more information on score and parts rental for Lillian Alling, contact John Estacio