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Vancouver Opera's production of Lillian Alling. (Handout/Handout)
Vancouver Opera's production of Lillian Alling. (Handout/Handout)

A journey of operatic proportions Add to ...


If you're thinking about heading out for a walk this weekend, you're probably planning on a few hours, tops - and likely on pavement, or at very least a well-worn path.

But when Russian émigré Lillian Alling went for a walk in the 1920s, she strode clear across North America - through dense bush and over steep mountain passes - with nothing but the clothes on her back and an iron pipe for protection on her way from New York to British Columbia, then north to the Yukon.

Certainly it was a journey of operatic proportions - so it's fitting that Vancouver Opera is kicking off its season with Lillian Alling, a new Canadian work by renowned composer John Estacio and librettist John Murrell that tells the legendary woman's epic story.

The production itself promises to be just as grand. Featuring some of Canada's top opera talent - including mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, Quebec soprano Frédérique Vézina, and Toronto tenor Roger Honeywell - as well as the 60-piece Vancouver Opera Orchestra and a 40-person chorus, the piece not only travels great distances thematically, it also touches on the myriad musical styles that Ms. Alling would have encountered on her journey.

No doubt the story of Ms. Alling's incredible strength, drive and determination will inspire Vancouver audiences; but did it change Mr. Estacio, who spent more than three years creating the piece?

"I have such an appreciation for what she did. I was sitting here in Vancouver today looking up at the mountains, and thinking, 'God, she would have had to walk to there,' " recounts the composer, who then laughs. "And I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to walk to there."

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