“I open my eyes. I pick up my pack. I pick out a path. I never look back. I take the first step. The answers I lack lie further ahead. I never look back.”
– Lillian Alling
The opera opens in the interior of British Columbia. It’s 1980 and Irene is packing up her beloved cabin to grudgingly move to the city for better care. As she bids goodbye to her familiar surroundings, her son Jimmy discovers an old-fashioned spinning top – a top that puts into motion the story of a woman she once knew: the story of Lillian Alling, a young woman from Russia who sets off to find her husband, Józef, who had emigrated to America ahead of her.
Suddenly we are swept into the New York of the 1920s. Lillian arrives in Brooklyn, as did so many immigrants, only to discover that Józef has left for better prospects in the farmland of North Dakota. Having no money, she finds a map at the New York Public Library and decides she will walk there. But as she pursues Jozef he is always one step ahead of her: across the vast prairies to the coast and ultimately, northward along BC’s Telegraph Trail. The men she encounters along the way document her path: the golden haired Norwegian farmer’s son Kristian; gnarly Constable Wyman who throws her in the Oakalla Prison Farm; spirited telegraphers Bill, Charlie, Jim and the determined Scotty Macdonald.
Scotty Macdonald…but that’s Jimmy’s father…as present day collides with the past, the spinning top throws Jimmy’s own history into question.
Act Two opens in 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. As Scotty explains that he betrayed her in order to save her from death in the wilds, he wins Lillian’s forgiveness and eventually earns her love. But Lillian is bound to Józef through a promise – her life is bound to his life, not by love but by hate. As Scotty learns Lillian’s secret and her truth, he agrees to help her make the journey to Telegraph Creek.
In love with Scotty, Lillian can’t bear to involve him in her desperate plan and so she sets out alone tackling the wilderness, rocky terrain and treacherous river crossings. With Scotty in hot pursuit, they arrive simultaneously in a forest clearing to confront Józef. It is in the Canadian wilderness that they will resolve Lillian’s past and begin Irene’s future.
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|GRANT NAME||YEAR||Opera Fund/Canadian Opera Creation Fund||2009||Opera Fund/Canadian Opera Creation Fund||2007||
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Vocal & Musical Forces
Principal: Soprano, mezz-soprano, tenor, baritone.
Supporting: Tenor, baritone (2), bass.
Sixty-piece orchestra, 36-voice SATB chorus
Lillian Alling, Irene, Jimmy, Scotty, Sergei/Constable Wyman, Bobby/Kristian/Charlie, Jozef/Drifter, Karl/Sam
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