The Gentle Shepherd
Scotland's First Opera
Love. Heartache. Sheep.
Just outside Edinburgh, in the Scottish Lowlands, lives Patie (PAY-tee) and Peggy, who are happily in love, and Roger and Jenny, who are trapped in a game of cat and mouse.
Patie receives a mysterious visit from a fortune teller who predicts that he will become royalty. The fortuneteller, of course, is revealed to be Sir William, Patie's estranged father. The reunion is bittersweet, as Sir William forbids Patie to marry Peggy, a commoner.
But all ends happily as Peggy is, of course, revealed to be of noble blood. She and Patie are married, and Roger and Jenny 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 been seldom 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. After months of development, we gave thee performances in the Midwest:
Old Town School of Folk Music (Chicago, September 24)
Theater Wit (Chicago, September 25)
Waldron Arts Center (Bloomington IN, November 12)
Our production included an ensemble of nineteen musicians, actors, and 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 the official show mascot, Pepe the Sheep.
HERALD TIMES REVIEW
Read why the Herald Times said the show was "charming and performed with such grace and joy and sincerity that a watcher and listener had to be won over."