Glenn Korff School of Music Opera ‘The Ballad of Baby Doe’ travels to North Platte

Crystal Dunning (left) and Krista Benesch rehearse the music for "The Ballad of Baby Doe," which travels to North Platte, thanks to the generosity of the James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Tour Nebraska Opera Fund. Photo by Michael Reinmiller.
Crystal Dunning (left) and Krista Benesch rehearse the music for "The Ballad of Baby Doe," which travels to North Platte, thanks to the generosity of the James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Tour Nebraska Opera Fund. Photo by Michael Reinmiller.

Glenn Korff School of Music Opera ‘The Ballad of Baby Doe’ travels to North Platte

calendar icon25 Sep 2017    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--The Glenn Korff School of Music’s opera program will take its touring production of “The Ballad of Baby Doe” to North Platte, Nebraska, in October thanks to the generosity of the James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Tour Nebraska Opera Fund.

“The Ballad of Baby Doe” will be performed at the Neville Center for Performing Arts located at the historic Fox Theater in North Platte on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. as part of the North Platte Concert Association’s 2017-2018 season. For ticket information, visit

The opera will also be performed for North Platte area high school students on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

“The Ballad of Baby Doe,” by Douglas Moore, tells the true story of the rise and fall of a Colorado silver miner, who is ultimately defeated by the gold standard. It takes place in Leadville, Colorado in the late 1800s.

“It’s about how love endures,” Hixson-Lied Professor and Director of Opera William Shomos said. “It’s about how love survives the passage of time.”

The central character is Horace Tabor.

“He made his fortune mining silver. The opera spans the period during which the United States moved from the silver standard to the gold standard. Over the course of the opera, Tabor loses his fortune,” Shomos said. “The opera focuses on his personal life. He was married to Augusta, a marriage that was really no longer viable. Along comes Baby Doe, and Horace falls in love with her, and she becomes the person in his life who will stand by him through everything.”

Horace is played by Master of Music student Trey Meyer of Brookings, South Dakota.

“Horace is a man who has everything in life:  He is rich, popular and completely confident in himself,” Meyer said. “The only thing he lacks is a happy marriage. When he meets Baby Doe, he quickly decides that she will be his crowning jewel and the source of happiness he had been missing with Augusta. It is fascinating to embody a character that begins the opera confident and successful, but loses everything by the end of the show. Even more so, it’s compelling to know that the characters we portray actually endured what we are performing on stage.”

Elizabeth “Baby” Doe Tabor is played by Master of Music student Arica Coleman, of Lincoln.

“Baby Doe is one of my dream opera roles, so I am thrilled to have this opportunity to play this character,” Coleman said. “Throughout the opera, she sings four well-known arias, The Silver aria, The Letter aria, Willow Song and a dramatic final aria ‘Always Through the Changing.’ Each aria contains both beautiful and challenging melodies. My favorite aria to perform is The Silver aria because of the elegant and dreamy quality, reminiscent of silver itself.”

Shomos said the music is very accessible.

“The tunes are beautiful and memorable,” he said.

This is the second year for the Nebraska Touring program. In May 2016, the opera program took its production of “The Marriage of Figaro” to Friend, Ord, Norfolk and Red Cloud, Nebraska. This year, Shomos opted for one location during the school year.

“The big benefit is that we’ll be able to bring high school students into that performance,” he said. “Three hundred students from around the area are going to attend our Tuesday matinee. And I imagine it will be the first exposure to live opera that many of those students will have had.”

The opera students are also excited for the tour.

“Touring shows are always exciting,” Meyer said. “They bring the cast and crew together in ways that you don’t always experience in a home production. And it gives us the opportunity to perform in beautiful venues across the state of Nebraska. It is also our mission to share opera with upcoming generations who have had few opportunities to experience the genre.”

Coleman is also looking forward to performing for family in the area.

“I am very excited to perform this opera in North Platte,” she said. “For me, I have many friends and family, like my Grandpa, that live in western Nebraska and will have the opportunity to see this performance. I also think this kind of outreach is important to allow other parts of Nebraska to see what kind of opportunities there are at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and to encourage high school students to consider UNL for their college education. I hope this outreach inspires people to want to contribute to this amazing opera program at the Glenn Korff School of Music, either by attending future productions or joining programs such as Friends of Opera to help fund UNL operas.” 

Shomos said these Nebraska tours are important to the opera program for two reasons.

“First, it gives our students the opportunity to refine their craft, adapting to a new space with limited rehearsal time. It’s an exciting process demanding a high level of focus and adaptability from each of the performers,” he said. “It’s also a valuable way for UNL Opera to ‘give back’ to Nebraska. The University belongs to the entire state, and it’s so important to share our work beyond Lincoln. North Platte houses a vibrant community theatre, but the opportunity to enjoy live opera is a rarity in rural Nebraska. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for audience and performers alike.”

Coleman is grateful to the Seacrests for this experience.

“We are eternally grateful that they have provided us with these opportunities to share art and music with the Nebraska community,” she said. “The lasting impact they have made on the students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the people of Nebraska is exponential.”

The James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Tour Nebraska Opera Fund was announced in August 2015. The fund, made possible with a gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation, is used to support the production, promotion, travel and other expenses incurred by the Glenn Korff School of Music for outreach opera events, both artistic and educational, across Nebraska, especially in rural venues.    

The Seacrests are former residents of North Platte. Jim, who passed away in 2016, was president and chairman of the board of Western Publishing, Co., which then owned the North Platte Telegraph and other newspapers in western Nebraska. 

“That’s really what inspired our production in North Platte, the Seacrest connection,” Shomos said. “And it’s a community that fits well into the mission of this project. We’re serving an audience that does not have easy access to opera in Lincoln or Omaha.”

Coleman said, “Audiences should expect to be entertained and educated by a fascinating and true story stemming from a place not too far from western Nebraska.”

For those unable to make it to North Platte for the performance, a final run-through of the opera will take place on Thursday, Oct. 5 in Westbrook Music Building Rm. 130 at 4:45 p.m. The rehearsal is free and open to the public.

“All UNL Opera rehearsals are open to the public, so anyone is welcome to attend,” Shomos said. “It’s always good to have guests.”