A Canadian Opera Experience


The opera Filumena, composed by John Estacio, libretto by John Murrell, is available online as part of Hamilton, Ontario’s annual Brott Music Festival.

“The music is hauntingly beautiful, highly dramatic and Puccini-esque” said conductor Boris Brott.

This production features the National Academy Orchestra, the Arcady Chorus and an all-star cast including baritone Gregory Dahl as Picariello, tenor Ernesto Ramirez as Stefano, and soprano Sydney Baedke as as the title character. Directed by Gregory Dahl and conducted by Boris Brott, it was filmed in the Concert Hall at First Ontario Place Hamilton.

Filumena tells the story of the last woman to be executed in the province of Alberta, Canada. Filumena Lossandro and Emilio Picariello were both found guilty for shooting Constable Stephen Lawson in 1927 despite the fact that no one could prove which of the two actually fired the gun.

Filumena immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s and settled in the Crowsnest Pass in Southwestern Alberta. At a young age she was married off to Charlie Lossandro and through this marriage became involved with an Italian bootlegging ring.

Filumena was encouraged by the head bootlegger, Emilio Picariello, to serve as a decoy on bootlegging runs; if there was a woman in the car, the police would be less suspicious of the vehicle’s illegal contents and they most certainly would not shoot at the vehicle. During several bootlegging runs across the Alberta, B.C., and Montana borders, Filumena was often paired up with the bootlegger’s son, Stefano Picariello – the police were fooled by the appearance of a young couple in love on their way to a picnic. Despite being married to Charlie, Picariello’s main henchman, Filumena became enamoured with Stefano.

After years of operating the illegal bootlegging ring, Picariello decides its time to become legitimate and runs for town council. After one final bootlegging run, he will turn to a legitimate life. On that fateful last night, Stefano went out on the run without Filumena and was shot by the police. Word quickly returned to town that Stefano had been shot and potentially mortally wounded. In a fit of rage, Emilio Picariello grabs his gun and drives to the home of the constable who allegedly shot his son. Filumena joins him. A struggle ensued between Picariello, Filumena and the constable. Shots were fired and the constable was struck and killed in front of the family home.

Picariello and Filumena were both captured. Stefano, who as it turns out was only wounded and not killed, plead with Filumena to take the blame for the crime. He explained to her that because his father comes from a foreign land, a jury made up of upstanding citizens would undoubtedly agree to have his father executed; however a woman is rarely found guilty of murder, and on the unlikely chance she is found guilty, she would be spared the death penalty. Filumena refused to take the blame and consequently both Filumena and Picariello were found guilty of the crime and executed.

To this day, no one knows exactly what happened the night of the murder and who exactly fired the fateful shot.


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