The Gentle Shepherd
Love, heartache, and sheep are plentiful in Scotland's first opera. In the Scottish Lowlands, just outside Edinburgh, live two couple: Patie (PAY-tee) and Peggy who are happily in love, and Roger and Jenny play a game of cat and mouse. One day, Patie receives a visit from a mysterious fortune teller who predicts that he will become royalty. The fortuneteller is soon revealed to be Sir William, Patie's estranged father. The reunion is bittersweet as Sir William forbids the noble Patie from marrying the commoner Peggy. But all ends happily for the couple as Peggy is, of course, revealed to be of noble blood and she and Patie wed. Roger and Jenny, too, are finally united.
Written in Edinburgh by poet Allan Ramsay, The Gentle Shepherd (1725) is considered to be the first Scottish opera - but really, we think of it as a musical play. The show is unique in that the music fuses Scottish folk and fiddle music with Italian Baroque music to create heartfelt ballads and foot-stomping dance tunes. Ramsay's beautiful (and humorous) poetry is delivered primarily through spoken dialogue. Some stanzas are set to well-known Scottish folk tunes and become "arias."
The show has seldom been performed anywhere over the past 200 years. In North America, it was last seen in Philadelphia in 1798. (We joke that we gave the North American (re)premiere of the show. )
Our (re)premiere included an ensemble of nineteen musicians, actors, and dancers from the Thistle and Heather Highland Dancers. Instrumentalists performed on original or replicas of 200+ year old instruments, and singers and actors sang and spoke in old English and Scottish dialects. As you might imagine, since the production was about sheep, there were several adorable stuffed sheep on hand including our official mascot Pepe. All our performances sold out (!!) and we caught the attention of WFMT Chicago, the Chicago Tribune, the RedEye, Early Music America., and we received a great review in the Herald Times.
Old Town School of Folk Music - Chicago, September 24
Theater Wit - Chicago, September 25
Waldron Arts Center - Bloomington IN, November 12
Pepe is the face - and star! - of our production of The Gentle Shepherd. Meet the sheep that launched the whole BBE stuffed mascot craze back in 2016!