February 1st, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 5
Filumena Opera in Calgary
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
A peek into Crowsnest Pass’ bootlegging history will be on display by the Calgary Opera with the return of Filumena.

The piece first premiered in partnership with the Banff Centre in 2003 and will be relaunched this February to honour Canada’s 150th anniversary, says Bob McPhee, general director and CEO of the Calgary Opera.

In this tragic tale of forbidden love and dramatic tension, Filumena is a story based on the murder of Constable Stephen Lawson during Alberta’s Prohibition era. Florence “Filumena” Losandro and Emilio “Emperor Pic” Picariello were both accused of the killing and since it wasn’t clear which one of the two pulled the trigger, they were both charged and hanged. Florence was the last woman hanged in Alberta.

The story has all the makings for a great opera, says McPhee.

“Everyone loves history and period pieces, and that was a specific history of our province in the Prohibition era and the whole idea of bootleggers and rum runners,” he says. “Whether it’s here or in Chicago, booze runners are interesting. And who doesn’t like a good love story?”

But McPhee says it’s more than this dramatic tension that intrigues, captivates and entertains audiences. The story has a strong human-interest angle that adds to its timelessness.
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“It has the aspect of the immigrants coming to our country, trying to fit in and create a new life in terms of the Italian families that are represented in this story. They’re opposed by the Protestant families in the region,” he says. “And we still see this with immigrants to our country and attitudes towards foreign people. Those situations are relevant today.”

With score by classical composer John Estacio and libretto by playwright John Murrell, McPhee says it’s the combination of these two maestros that makes the piece shine.

“Spoken word can be very powerful and moving, but when it’s overly emotionalized and dramatized by a beautiful score, it takes those words to a new height,” says McPhee.

Although much of the cast has changed, the production uses the same set and costumes, and stays very true to the original.
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“There are only two principles that were in the first production,” he says. “Because it was such a success when it was first produced… if it worked, don’t fix it.”

Filumena will be performed on Feb. 4, 8 and 10 at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. It has been 14 years since the Calgary Opera first showcased the performance, and McPhee extends a welcome to those experiencing Filumena for the first time, or re-experiencing it once more.

“If you saw it the first time, you’re absolutely going to want see it again,” he says. “If you didn’t see it the first time, you’re not going to want to miss it this time because it could be another 15 years before you get that opportunity. Whether you’re a new Albertan or a longtime Albertan, it’s a story that we should all know.”
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February 1st, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 5
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