Florence Lassandro Mugshot, 1922

Emilio Picariello was an adventurous and hard-working family man whose ambitions led him to challenge the law of the land for profit. On the other hand, he was well known in the community for helping the less well off. His contravening of the Prohibition Act, and consequent violence, led authorities to realize that criminalizing the use of liquor was not in the best interest of society. In addition, it confirmed the need for provincial governments to address the regulation of the sale and use of liquor. The story is unquestionably associated with the history of Fernie and the Crowsnest Pass, and has generated media attention not only in the past but also today.

Florence Lassandro was the daughter of an Italian coal miner who immigrated from Italy to Fernie, BC. Her family lived nearby the Picariello family and were close friends. Married at 14, she and her husband, Charlie Lassandro, moved to Blairmore in 1917, when Picariello bought the Alberta Hotel as a front for his bootlegging business. Charlie worked for Pic and Florence helped with housekeeping at the hotel and helped Maria to look after Picariello children. A last minute decision for her to join Emilio Picariello as he went to confront Constable Lawson sealed her fate in history.

The story has been immortalized in the opera Filumena (librettist John Murrell and composer John Estacio) that has been performed not only in British Columbia and Alberta but also nationally. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, the Calgary Opera is remounting Filumena at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium from February 3 to 10.

The production stars Lida Szkwarek as Filumena, Gregory Dahl as Emilio Picariello, Elizabeth Turnbull as Maria Picariello, Andrew Love as Charlie Losandro, Thomas Glenn as McAlpine and Ernesto Ramírez as Steve. Filumena is conducted by Robert Dean with stage direction by Kelly Robinson

The Fernie Museum is excited to be a part of this production; our exhibit The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello will be located in the lobby of the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium with museum staff in period costume to answer questions about this larger-than-life story. The curator of the exhibit, Adriana Davies, will be part of a panel discussion at the Taste of the Opera – Filumena on February 3.


Tickets are available online.

Calgary Opera is providing a generous 20% discount off ticket prices for residents of the Elk Valley and the Crowsnest Pass. Enter the discount code, Crowsnest, at the time of purchase.


© 2016 Fernie & District Historical Society
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