Composer Cecilia Livingston & Librettist Michael Albano Discuss About New U Of T Opera Fee

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L-R: Composer Cecilia Livingston (Photo: Alexander Denino); Librettist Michael Patrick Albano (Photo courtesy of the artist)
L-R: Composer Cecilia Livingston (Picture: Alexander Denino); Librettist Michael Patrick Albano (Picture courtesy of the artist)

The College of Toronto School of Music has introduced the fee of a brand new opera titled Fall River, the legend of Lizzie Borden. The opera will premiere in November 2026 in a efficiency by U of T Opera.

Cecilia Livingston will compose the music, with a libretto by Michael Patrick Albano. Fall River might be solely the third opera ever commissioned by U of T Opera.

Composer-in-residence on the Canadian Opera Firm since 2022, and previously composer-in-residence at Glyndebourne (2019-2022), Cecilia makes a speciality of vocal works, which have been praised for his or her magnificence. She graduated from the College of Toronto with a doctorate in composition, and was awarded the Theodoros Mirkopoulos Fellowship in Composition.

Michael Albano was an Affiliate Professor within the U of T Opera program, now retired, and served as Resident Stage Director, amongst different capabilities. His resume additionally consists of greater than 25 works for the stage, together with librettos for firms such because the Washington Opera, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and the Canadian Youngsters’s Opera Firm. At U of T, he staged greater than 50 opera productions. As a director, he’s labored with firms such because the Manhattan College of Music, New York Metropolis Opera, the Opera Competition of New Jersey, amongst others

The work might be written for 5 main roles, seven secondary roles, a choral ensemble, and chamber orchestra of about 10 to 12 musicians.

L-R: Lizzie Borden in 1890 (Public domain); The Borden murder trial—A scene in the court-room before the acquittal - Lizzie Borden, the accused, and her counsel, Ex-Governor Robinson. Illustration in Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 76 (1893 June 29), p. 411 (B.W. Clinedinst/CC BY 3.0)
L-R: Lizzie Borden in 1890 (Public area); The Borden homicide trial—A scene within the court-room earlier than the acquittal – Lizzie Borden, the accused, and her counsel, Ex-Governor Robinson. Illustration in Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, v. 76 (1893 June 29), p. 411 (B.W. Clinedinst/CC BY 3.0)

Lizzie Borden: The Information

First, a have a look at the details of Lizzie Borden. Lizzie Andrew Borden was born on July 19, 1860, and died on June 1, 1927. It was on August 4, 1892, when Lizzie was 32, that her father and stepmother have been brutally murdered with an axe in Fall River Massachusetts.

Borden’s household have been rich by means of manufacturing and actual property issues, though her father, Andrew, was identified for his frugality. After Lizzie’s mom died, Andrew remarried Abby Durfee Graysons. Relations with Lizzie have been chilly, nonetheless. She insisted on calling her “Mrs. Borden” and never mom, and Lizzie and her sister seldom ate with the couple.

Strained relations led the sisters to go away the house for an prolonged trip in July of 1892. Even after she returned, Lizzie lived in a rooming home for a number of days earlier than returning to the household residence. It emerged on the trial that Andrew had been beneficiant in gifting land and different issues to Abby and her household, inflicting a substantial amount of friction.

On the morning of August 4, Abby was killed first as she did chores that morning. Later, after Andrew returned, he was killed in the identical manner.

Testimony from the live-in maid conflicted the proof, in addition to Lizzie’s responses. The police didn’t like her calmness and poise — and located two axes within the basement. She was charged with homicide, however acquitted, and lived the remainder of her life in that very same home together with her sister.

It’s the proper story, in different phrases, for an operatic therapy.

Cecilia Livingston & Michael Albano: The Interview

As Michael factors out, though U of T commissions have been few and much between, the College’s Opera division was usually used to premiere new works as a sort of attempting floor for the Canadian Opera Firm. “We bought the privilege to do the premieres, with out the accolades,” he says.

Premieres, and new operas, are important, regardless of an ideal love of nineteenth century opera, the romantic traditions.

“The shape will die, it is going to change into a museum kind, until new items are written,” he says. However, he says that present indicators of an upswing in opera’s recognition, particularly amongst younger individuals each as creators and viewers members, are encouraging. “I believe we live in an attention-grabbing time. Opera is scorching!” he says.

The Lizzie Borden story is an curiosity of Michael’s. “I’ve been obsessive about this story for fairly some time,” he says. That features visiting Fall River, and her former residence, now a B&B. “It’s the size of a narrative,” he explains. “It’s simply so operatic. It’s similar to one thing Euripides would have written.”

Because the many years have handed, public curiosity within the story hasn’t a lot diminished, though the main target maybe has. From regulation and order, many individuals at the moment are within the psychology underpinning the sensational story.

He additionally credit Tyler Greenleaf, the Director, Development of the School of Music, as a driving power behind the venture.

When it got here to composers, Albano says he knew who he wished. “I used to be on tenterhooks till we heard from Cecilia.”

“I didn’t say no,” Cecilia laughs. “I used to be fascinated by the story concept. I too am all for […] how can we get to these locations the place we commit these acts?” she says. “We proceed to consider how she may need gotten there.”

Cecilia had taken Michael’s introduction to opera composition class as a scholar. “Look what he unleashed.”

“I’ve adopted Cecilia’s profession,” Michael provides.

Composer Cecilia Livingston (Photo: Alexander Denino)
Composer Cecilia Livingston (Picture: Alexander Denino)

Adapting The Story For Opera

In adapting the story, as he describes it, you start with the historic details just like the dates, her age, the details of her dwelling in a repressive family with an abusive father.

“[She had] a really, very fractious relationship together with her step mom,” he mentioned.

Michael bought maintain of a transcript of the particular trial whereas he was in Massachusetts. The place the transcript leaves off, the artistry begins. “You then think about the hyperlinks between these details.”

It builds a collection of little narrative bridges that flip the details right into a cohesive story. “It’s such a powerful, sturdy, narrative.”

With regards to the music, for a narrative that’s located up to now, there’s a option to be made. “What’s the musical fashion of the time, and can we sit in these areas? I’ve made that alternative many instances,” Cecilia says. “I like a mixture.”

Her works have a tendency to make use of methods that go well with the drama and ambiance of the second. “I believe I’ll write it in my very own language,” she says. “It lets me have a extremely broad instrument equipment.”

That features dissonance in addition to intensely lyrical passages, because the narrative dictates.

The story makes a number of jumps in time. “The toughest a part of writing the libretto,” Michael says, “as soon as the very brutal homicide of her mother and father happen, the place do you go after that?”

The story builds through the first act. “I assumed that we might […] leap proper into the turmoil of that family,” he says. The primary act ends with Lizzie clearly considering violence.

“That’s going to be a unbelievable second,” Cecilia provides. “I believe that’s going to be a deal with.”

The second act begins after the crimes to chronicle the aftermath, however then doubles again, on the very finish, to lastly depict Lizzie wielding the axe towards her father and step-mother.

“One of many causes that I used to be so eager to undertake this with Michael was that I may see the care he’d taken with the construction,” Cecilia says. It creates a dramatic story arc, and her work is to match the match the pacing to the music. “For me, that’s the pleasant problem.”

To keep away from turning a chamber opera right into a courtroom only for one scene, the trial performs as flashbacks in Lizzie’s thoughts.

“I really like these areas for ambiguity,” Cecilia says. “I’m significantly excited for this story. We predict we all know her.”

“The curiosity on this story is phenomenal,” Michael provides. “Music is such an ideal medium of storytelling.”

Michael describes his method to writing. “A libretto by its nature must be minimal,” he says. He appreciated Cecilia’s few recommendations right here and there for tightening the textual content to make extra room for the music. “There at all times needs to be room for music,” he explains. “It’s by no means labored that I do know of, of somebody merely taking a play and setting it to music.”

Lengthy Dwell Opera

Whereas there aren’t any stats to doc it, it’s true that those that work within the area have seen an elevated curiosity, and extra importantly, a presence, by youthful generations within the opera world. It’s having a second that may hopefully not solely endure however develop.

“I believe there are a lot of and sophisticated causes for that,” Cecilia says. “It’s terrifically thrilling to be a composer as a part of that.”

Toronto’s indie opera scene is a busy one.

“I simply suppose that’s one thing deliciously monumental about opera,” she says. “It’s about enormous feelings. It’s about complicated questions.”

It’s a manner of collectively fascinated with and sharing questions of human expertise. A part of its new recognition is as a result of manner opera has additionally reached past the confines of a conventional opera home to embrace audiences on the lookout for completely different experiences.

“The creators of any artwork kind don’t essentially find yourself proudly owning it,” Michael says of any naysayers.

Cecilia mentions, “the facility of the singing voice, unmediated by audio system” as a defining function of the opera, an inherently multidisciplinary artwork.

As Michael factors out, nice singers at all times discover an emotional coronary heart to the story, it doesn’t matter what the topic. It will probably convey tough characters like Lizzie to vivid life on stage.

The College of Toronto Opera fee is facilitated by monetary help from particular person donors, together with Denton Creighton and Kristine Vikmanis, at the moment a director on the board of the COC.

The November 2026 premiere might be carried out by Sandra Holst, Head of the U of T Opera division.

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