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Opera comes to Holt Township


Mon, May 1st, 2000
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David and Lori Bakke and their three sons are not opera buffs. But that won’t stop them from hosting a production of Aaron Copland’s opera The Tender Land on their Lanesboro, MN farm this summer. On June 11, the Bakkes will welcome as many as 2,000 people to hear Copland’s foot-tapping rhythms. Copland, known for his classics Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid, has a spirited style that is not typically associated with opera. Copland captured his love of rural America by incorporating the sounds of country dances, folk songs and regional hymns into his work.

The Tender Land will be performed by nine singers and thirteen instrumentalists from the University of Minnesota School of Music Opera Theater. The production features an intergenerational choir from the local community and sixth grade student, Marguerite Abrahamson of Lanesboro, has been chosen to play "Beth," a ten year old farm girl in the 1930's.

Opera on the Farm is part of the University’s 150th birthday celebration. The Tender Land will be performed in seven different rural communities throughout the Midwest over a two week period in June. The tour begins in Lanesboro with an opening ceremony in Sylvan Park the morning of the opera. The event is sponsored by the Lanesboro Art Council, which has formed several local committees to assist with planning and coordinating the many aspects of the event.

Lori Bakke recalls hearing over a year ago that the Art Council would be looking for a particular type of farm to host the event. "I knew we fit the description – a working family farm with traditional outbuildings, an open front porch on the house, and ample space – but I never dreamed that we would actually host it," says Lori. When committee members came knocking on their door this past winter, the Bakkes had a hard time saying "no" after hearing that their farm was "absolutely ideal" for the event.

The two hour production will take place on the Bakke’s old fashioned, airy wooden porch. The Tender Land is set in the 1930’s on a Midwestern farm in June. 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.

The audience will sit on chairs and bleachers (borrowed from the local football field) in the Bakke’s expansive front lawn. "It’s hard for me to imagine 2,000 people fitting in our yard," says Lori, "but everyone keeps telling me that we have plenty of room." General admission seating begins two hours before the production. Local non-profit organizations will erect food booths in the Bakke’s horse pasture the morning of the opera.

Of the 2,000 people expected to attend, committee members hope that at least a quarter of them will arrive by bus. The ten dollar ticket fee includes a free shuttle to the farm from Lanesboro. People who drive themselves can park in the Bakke’s hayfield at no cost. The Bakkes have been told not to worry about the logistical details. The Lanesboro Art Council assures them that all they need to do is host. "The University has presented a touring farm opera several times, so I’m sure they have an idea how everything will work," says Lori. "Still, it’s a little nerve-racking to think about all the details!"

The Bakkes feel honored to have their farm represent southeast Minnesota in the Opera on the Farm tour. "We think it will be a fun experience to meet all the people involved with the production," says Lori. "And if nothing else, this will definitely be something that our boys will be able to tell their grandkids about someday!"

For more information on the Lanesboro production of The Tender Land contact the Lanesboro Visitor’s Center at 1-800-944-2670.

Next week meet Beth, played by Marguerite Abrahamson of rural Lanesboro.

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