TWILLINGATE, N.L. - Back lit by a century-old stain glass window, Tonia Cianciulli stood before a room of crowded pews, in the very church where Georgina Stirling was baptized, sang as a child, and was finally laid to rest.
Hosting her third and last performance at the historic St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Twillingate, Cianciulli’s Nightingale Sings tour was brought full circle.
“I think [the Twillingate performance] is the most thrilling,” Cianciulli says. “When I sing here, I really feel Georgina’s presence and all the nostalgia and magic around her.
“It’s been a really incredible journey. I feel Georgina is up there smiling, and there are stories of her still left untold.”
The concert was held on a hot summer evening on Friday, Aug. 24, as a tribute to the life and music of Twillingate-born opera singer Georgina Stirling.
Accompanied by pianist Jason Locke, Cianciulli sang a variety of songs from Stirling’s repertoire, as well as her renditions of Ron Hynes’ song about Stirling - “Marie.”
Musician hopes to carry Twillingate opera singer's legacy into 21st century
In between the soprano songstress’ powerful vocal arrangements, Calvin Evans read passages about Stirling’s life. Evans is an author, historian and Cianciulli’s grandfather. The passages come from a book that he and Cianciulli are currently writing about Stirling.
Cianciulli’s daughter Sophia also performed at the concert, singing Arthur Behrend’s “Daddy”, a song Stirling was known to sing when she was young.
Gerry Poirier, Clergy warden for the church, says she and the community are very grateful that Cianciulli is continuing Stirling’s legacy and memory into the 21st century.
“I have thank Tonia for bringing her gift of singing to Georgina’s hometown,” she says.
About Georgina Stirling
Georgina Stirling, who gained renown as an international opera singer in the 1800s, was born in Twillingate on April 3, 1867, daughter of Dr. William Stirling and Ann Peyton.
Stirling and her sisters received musical training from a young age, and at age 16 she travelled from Twillingate to Toronto where she did two years of vocal training.
She continued vocal training in Paris in 1888, and in 1890 joined a Milan opera company, making her debut performance at the La Scala opera house.
She was invited to join the New Imperial Opera Company in New York in 1896 and then toured with the Scalchi Operatic Company across the United States. Stirling was known to stand out amongst the company in local reviews of their performances.
During this time she also did occasional performances in St. John’s, and was again met with continuous acclaim in local newspaper articles.
While performing in Italy from 1898 to 1901, immense damage had been done to her vocal chords. It brought an abrupt end to her career as an opera singer.
Over the next two decades she did rare performances as a concert artist, and spent much of her time in England. She eventually returned to Twillingate following the death of her sisters, spending her time gardening and singing at concerts to raise money for the Twillingate Hospital.
She died of cancer in 1935.
To learn more about Georgina Stirling, visit the Twillingate Museum and Craft Shop.