‘The Tender Land’: A Tale of Love and Heartache

California Lutheran University students will be performing the second full-length production opera in Aaron Copeland’s 20th century American opera “The Tender Land.”

This opera takes place during the Dust Bowl era, and it’s a coming of age story that centers around the high school graduation of the principal character Laurie. It’s a tale of love, heartache and soul-searching for one’s place in the world.

Unlike most productions that are performed inside a theater with a stage backdrop, this opera will be performed outside. The Pederson Ranch House will be used as part of the stage along with the water tower.

Heidi Valencia Vass, an adjunct professor of music and voice, is directing “The Tender Land.” Vass said this production is very non-traditional in a sense that you’re not walking inside a venue.

“It’ll be a very different experience because we’re building it out of a structure that exists. It’s not a façade,” Vass said. “There’s always logistical concerns. This one in particular has a greater learning curve, I would say, because of where we’re doing it and how we’re doing it.”

The orchestra, performed by the Cal Lutheran Symphony and conducted by professor Daniel Geeting, will be part of the set production. According to Geeting, they are hoping to have a classic Ford Model A car as part of the set.

The production begins at 7:30 p.m. on May 8 and 9. Vass said they are performing to emulate the production’s real timeline, and they plan to start at sunset to follow the chronology of the opera.

Students have been rehearsing and planning since the start of the spring semester.

“I really like to see the students involved in a long-range project where they get to develop a character, learn a part that’s longer than three minutes, see it happen, and see how it’s put together,” Geeting said.

Geeting said Copeland could be considered the “godfather” of American composers.

“I like that the students are doing what really is a work of genius,” Geeting said. “I’m reminded again about how much potential students have. They really, in a way, do not know how powerful they are, and this helps them to see that, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Annika Dybevik, a sophomore and theater major, is starring as the lead character Laurie. Dybevik said she could relate to her character in a sense because she and Laurie are similar in age, and just like her character leaves home. Dybevik left her home to attend Cal Lutheran.

This is Dybevik’s first opera, and she said it’s a lot more challenging than what she’s used to.

“It’s all singing, and you have to put all of your trust in the conductor, which is a new thing for me, I’m used to musicals where you know when to come in. This is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done with music because it’s so different from musicals,” Dybevik said.

Dybevik said she has found a new love for singing opera, and it has inspired her to want to go to graduate school for opera.

Vass said she’s excited about doing something really unique and something that hasn’t been done before. She said she’s excited about having people come and respond to the different characters.

“There’s someone for everybody to relate to in the opera,” Vass said.

There is no cost for admission, but tickets are required. To get tickets visit www.callutheran.edu/events. Traditional seating will be available, but there will also be a picnic area on the Pederson Ranch House lawn.

“Guests can bring a blanket, some snacks and relax because it’s going to be a beautiful evening,” Vass said.


Daniela Abravaya
Staff Writer
Published May 6th, 2015