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Mon, May 8th, 2000
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Lanesboro girl has role in OperaBy Jill O'Neill

May 8, 2000

When eleven year-old Marguerite Abrahamson of rural Lanesboro first heard that the University of Minnesota School of Music Opera Theater would be performing this summer in Lanesboro, MN, she didn't give it much thought. But when she learned that the opera company was seeking a local girl to fill a speaking role in Aaron Copland's The Tender Land, she became interested. "I knew right away that I wanted to try out for the part," says Marguerite. "I've always loved to sing and perform."

Although Marguerite recalls feeling somewhat timid at the beginning of the ninety-minute audition, she was soon at ease. The talent committee was pleased with Marguerite's vibrant personality and selected her to portray "Beth", a young farm girl in the 1930s. "Margi's exuberance and enthusiasm were evident immediately," says Heidi Dybing of the talent committee. "She had no qualms about auditioning in front of an audience. I'm confident we'll enjoy watching her portray Beth as much as she'll enjoy being her for two hours."

The traveling opera will perform Copland's The Tender Land in seven different rural communities throughout Minn-esota, North Dakota and Iowa in June, 2000. The University Opera Theater will travel to each location with nine singers, thirteen instrumentalists and renowned conductor, Akira Mori. Each community will provide an intergenerational choir and a local girl to play the role of Beth.

This is the University's third Opera on the Farm series. The touring opera is designed to bring quality artistic performances to communities that lack regular and affordable access to performing arts. "The Tender Land is the perfect traveling opera," says Vern Sutton, University of Minnesota Opera Theater director. "Opera generally is very expensive, the set being one of the major expenses, so by bringing the opera to the set - in this case a farm - it is possible to produce in small rural communities."

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 family's 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. Laurie's mother turns to her youngest daughter, Beth, for answers and hope.

Marguerite's character, Beth, has the only speaking role in the performance. Having had her lines memorized since the audition in February, Marguerite is now beginning to work on projection and delivery. Her parents, John and Kathy Abrahamson, are taking an active role in her rehearsals. "Marguerite will meet only twice with the conductor between now and the production," says Kathy. "The rest of the cast won't arrive until the day before the performance, so we're just hoping that everything will fall into place!"

The Abrahamsons are delighted to be involved with the touring opera. "The audition alone was a great experience for Marguerite," says Kathy. "She is looking forward to meeting all of other people involved with the production."

The Abrahamsons find Marguerite's part in the opera very suiting. "In working through her lines, I see many similarities between Marg-uerite's real life and Beth's character. They both have a certain excitement to them," says Kathy.

Marguerite says that for her the most exciting part will be standing in front of an estimated 2,000 people and doing her part. "This is the biggest audience I will have ever performed for. I'm sure I'll be nervous, but once I start in, I'll calm down and forget about all the people watching." Marguerite's only disappointment is that there will be just one performance of the opera.

The Opera on the Farm tour will begin its production of The Tender Land in rural Lanes-boro, MN on the David and Lori Bakke Farm on June 11, 2000. For more informa-tion on the Lanesboro Opera on the Farm production contact the Lanesboro Visitors Center at 1-800-944-2670.

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