Every year, the Bemidji State University Department of Music works across disciplines to produce a full opera production for the Bemidji community. This year, with COVID-19 guiding in-person activities, the production took to the big screen with a movie production of selected scenes from popular operas.
Under the direction of Dr. Cory Renbarger, associate professor of music, students worked closely with Bemidji’s NLFX Professional audio, video, lighting and editing company to produce a 60-minute feature film called “Things lost, Things Found.” The music department launched the production with two goals in mind, Renbarger said.
“Bemidji State University opera theatre is an important part of our student’s education and the overall campus experience here so ‘the show must go on,’” he said. “This show also has an important message to say about the times we found ourselves in this year. We’ve all lost something, but we’ve also found each other and life in new and exciting ways and we will persevere.”
Like many classic operas, the film is split into two halves, or acts. Act one focuses on moments of loss, loneliness and death in opera theatre includes scenes from “Our Town” by Ned Rorem, “Carmen” by Georges Bizet and “Street Scene” by Kurt Weill and focuses on moments of loss, loneliness and death in opera theatre. Act two is filled with moments of love, discovery and birth with scenes from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein,” “The Tender Land” by Aaron Copland and “L’incoronazione di Poppea” by Claudio Monteverdi.
The premiere of Things lost, Things Found” is set for 7:30 p.m. on May 21 and will be available free to the public on the Bemidji State University website and social media channels. While the experience was out of the ordinary for the faculty, staff and students involved, Renbarger said the production offered a unique learning experience.
“Both students and faculty learned a great deal about the more commercial end of producing filmed music and we all learned just how resilient we are in dealing with the limitations of health and safety protocols this year, as well as the differing timelines of film production,” Renbarger said. “I’m so proud of the students’ abilities to overcome these hurdles, to tell these stories, and to realize the very lofty goals set throughout this project. This will be something special we will always be proud of achieving during this historic year.”
Cast and Company in order of appearance
- Aaron Kolb, a senior music major from Rosemount, Minnesota; stage manager in “Our Town”; Sam in “Street Scene”; chorus in “The Tender Land” by Aaron Copland.
- Bailey Harkins ‘21, a music graduate from Amarillo, Texas; Charlotte, “Werther“ by Jules Massenet; Mercedes in “Carmen”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Michaela Bullivant, a senior music major from Dassel, Minnesota; Barbarina in “Le nozze di Figaro” by Mozart; Kate in “The Ballad of Baby Doe” by Douglas Moore; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Michael Johann, a sophomore music major from Zimmerman, Minnesota; Nemorino in “L’elisir d’amore“ by Donizetti; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Bria Halvorson, a senior music education major from Bagley, Minnesota; Frasquita in “Carmen”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Emily Bergeron, a junior music major from Bemidji; Carmen in “Carmen”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Dezerae Medina, a senior music education major from Bemidji; Meg in “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”
- Carolyn Smith ‘21, a psychology graduate from Grand Forks, North Dakota; Baby Doe in “The Ballad of Baby Doe”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Blake Staines, a junior liberal education and psychology major from Clearbrook, Minnesota; Horace Tabor in “The Ballad of Baby Doe”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Emily Max, a sophomore music education major from Virginia, Minnesota; Maria in “West Side Story”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Kody Staack, a freshman music education major from Coon Rapids, Minnesota; Tony in “West Side Story”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Anna Wetrosky, a senior environmental studies and music major from Pine River, Minnesota; Poppea in “L’incoronazione di Poppea” by Claudio Monteverdi; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
- Noah Bostic, a junior music and history major from Rigby, Idaho; Nerone in “L’incoronazione di Poppea”; chorus in “The Tender Land”; chorus in “Our Town.”
The formulation of this opera required collaborations with people and departments across campus and the community.
Bemidji State’s Eric Gustafson and Dan Will, adjunct instructors of music, coordinated orchestral and keyboard work for the entire show including performances by the music department’s Dr. Hilary Lowery, assistant professor on the clarinet, Sarah Weisbrod, adjunct instructor on the flute, Dr. Miriam Webber, assistant professor on the bassoon, and Ryan Webber adjunct instructor on the trombone.
Renbarger, who was also the show’s artistic director, collaborated with BSU alumnus Fred Rogers ‘12 to form set design and costume concepts while 2021 music grad Bailey Harkins was the primary makeup artist for the cast.
In addition, the Bemidji State University Bemidji Choir also provided additional voices to the final scene under the direction of Dr. Dwight Jilek, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities.