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When music meets the land

Sun, Jun 18th, 2000
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Many people are familiar with the expression The opera isnt over until the fat lady sings, but how about until the cow bellows, or until the kitten frolics? This was the case for 1,500 opera-goers last Sunday at the University of Minnesotas School of Music production of Aaron Coplands The Tender Land.

Staged on the old fashioned front porch at the David and Lori Bakke farm in rural Lanesboro, the outdoor production showed off Fillmore Countys best. Seated on chairs throughout the Bakkes lawn, the audience was treated to picture perfect views of rolling farmland and a warm summers breeze. Local youth organizations worked the aisles, keeping the crowd well supplied with cool drinks, homemade pie, fresh cookies and other goodies.
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA STUDENT Eleanor Taylor sings a touching song about her emotions surrounding graduation day as she portrays Laurie Moss in The Tender Land. Photo by Jill ONeill

Music and landscape meshed together during the two-hour show. Cattle seemed to bellow on cue from their spring pasture. The powerful, melodic voices of nine University students captivated the audience as they sang Coplands snappy, yet touching melodies. Intricate sounds from the thirteen-piece student orchestra hovered in the summer air. Midway through the production the Bakkes black and white kitten Tiger took a place on stage, winning the audiences heart with his antics. All told, the atmosphere was relaxing and comfortablejust like life in Southeast Minnesota.

Set on a Midwestern farm, The Tender Land tells the story of a farm family dealing with life changing events and decisions. The night before her high school graduation, the familys daughter, Laurie, falls in love with a drifter who has been doing odd jobs on the farm. To complicate matters, the drifter and his friend are falsely accused of attacking some young girls in the county. Laurie makes plans to run off with the drifters, who have been asked to leave the farm by daybreak. She is devastated when she learns that they stole off in the night without her and decides to leave home anyway. Lauries mother turns to her youngest daughter, Beth, for answers and finds hope in the continuous cycle of life.

Eleven year old Marguerite Abrahamson of rural Lanesboro did an outstanding job at portraying the young farm girl Beth. She opened and closed the production in two touching scenes and maintained her character well throughout the show. A thirty-four member community chorus took center stage during act two, performing a song and dance about the ways of rural life. The audience gave the cast and orchestra a standing ovation before returning to Lanesboro by shuttle bus.

The travelling opera troupe rested up Sunday night in Lanesboro before heading to Des Moines, Iowa for their third of seven performances throughout the Midwest. Several Lanesboro residents opened their homes to host the University performers. Project director, Linda Fisher reported that the tour couldnt have gotten off to a more perfect start. Lanesboro has been very welcoming, said Fisher. The students are always a bit reticent about going into peoples homes, but they told me this morning that they are being treated like royalty.

The Tender Land will show in Des Moines, IA; Algona, IA; Pipestone/Ihlen, MN; Renville County, MN; New Rockford, ND and Red Lake Falls, MN between now and June 24. The opera is directed by Akira Mori and Vern Sutton, both from the University of Minnesota.

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