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Review: A THOUSAND ACRES by Kristin Kuster and Mark Campbell Makes a Stunning World Premiere at Des Moines Metro Opera

Review: A THOUSAND ACRES by Kristin Kuster and Mark Campbell Makes a Stunning World Premiere at Des Moines Metro Opera

A world premiere production celebrates what makes Des Moines Metro Opera an amazing company and looks towards its future.

When an organization reaches a milestone like 50 years, it can be easy to look back at everything that brought you to that milestone. While Des Moines Metro Opera's productions of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and PORGY AND BESS do that, they are also looking at the future, with the world premiere production of A THOUSAND ACRES, with music by Kristin Kuster and libretto by Mark Campbell. If this production indicates what Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO) has planned for the future, then I'm sure we will see them around for another 50 years and more.

A THOUSAND ACRES is a modernized retelling of Shakespeare's KING LEAR, told from the perspective of one of his daughters, Ginny. From the beginning, with no lush overture, you can see this isn't going to be your typical opera.

The show starts as Ginny visits the family farm one last time as the property has been lost. She reflects on the day her father decided to give the farm to his three daughters. There's only issue: One of them doesn't want to move back from her life in the city, thus becoming estranged from her father.

As the story continues, the father accuses her and her sister Rose of having the third daughter turn on the family. He decides to sue both of his daughters to get the farm back. By the show's end, the daughters win the lawsuit, but, one by one, Ginny loses her family from suicide, cancer, and divorce. What she still has at the end, the two daughters of her sister Rose, who has died of cancer, gives the audience hope that, though bleak, things may be starting to turn for the better.

If you have been previously attended one of DMMO's seasons, you are probably accustomed to the elaborate sets and costumes typically seen in their shows. A THOUSAND ACRES challenges the audience's idea of what sets and costumes can be.

The costumes by Valérie T. Bart are more modern than what typical audiences are used to and honestly look like things people within our community would wear. The sets designed by Luke Cantarella are minimalist, but for a very important reason. The opulence of this show comes from Luke Cantarella's projection design, and the use of the projections throughout the show is spectacular.

During intermission, I had the pleasure of speaking with an audience member, who shared where the filming for the projections had been done, just outside of town. Keeping the filming local brought the audiences into the show yet another way. The show also features Kate Ashton's lighting and makeup/hair design by Kellen M Eason.

One of the things I appreciated about this show was how it looks toward the future with multiple designers making their debut with DMMO. It also brings in some artists who have made the company what people know and love. One is director Kristine McIntyre, who has become a staple of the company and has found different ways of pushing stories and the art form in general forward each time. A THOUSAND ACRES is no different for her. We also hear the superb orchestra under the direction of another DMMO staple David Neely.

One of the night's biggest surprises for me came at the top of the show. I'm so used to a musical opening with the orchestra, but this started a cappella with mezzo Elise Quagliata in the role of Ginny. She taps into the emotions that I can only imagine any farmer who has lost everything might go through, from his land to his family and this journey continues throughout the show.

Some of my favorite moments come in the scenes she shares with Sara Gartland, who is returning for another summer with DMMO. Gartland's beautiful soprano voice and Quagliata's stunning mezzo make for some of my favorite musical moments of the night. The journey of Gartland's character is a very emotional, as she faces a cancer diagnosis, gets to celebrate her recovery, then has the heartache of not only losing her spouse but having to identify the body. Both actresses tackle the emotional weight of the show with excellence and make it one you won't soon forget.

The show also features terrific performances from Grace Kahl as the estranged sister Caroline, Roger Honeywell as father Larry, Keith Phares as Ginny's husband Ty, Taylor Stayton as Rose's husband Pete, and John Moore as Jess, a lover at times to both Ginny and Rose, Wei Wu as Marv Carson, and Kristopher Irmiter as Harold. The show also features two young actresses in the roles of Mara Stoa and Ansley Mason, in the roles of Pamela and Linda, the two daughters of Rose and Pete.

While it's easy to look at the past when celebrating a significant milestone, DMMO continues to look forward. The company's leadership took a huge risk in presenting a world premiere debuting a new opera, which paid off by allowing them to tell stories in a way I've never seen them do before. If this is an example of what is to come in the future from DMMO, then we have so much to look forward to in the next 50 years and more. To find out more about Des Moines Metro Opera, visit https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2189930®id=52&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fdesmoinesmetroopera.org?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1




From This Author - DC Felton

David Felton has been involved in theatre since his middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. Throughout high school he stayed onstage, and once he got to college he started exploring thebackst... (read more about this author)


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