Student - September 6, 2007

VHL opera is colourful spectacle

What started as the practical part of the Master’s in Training, Rural Extension and Transformation at Van Hall Larenstein ended up being a full-blown opera on the steps next to Forum. The Valley of the Druves production was one of the highlights of the opening of the new building and the dress rehearsal took place on Monday 3 September.

Lilting and melancholic music and song accompany the colourful spectacle of the clash between two tribes: the Druves and the Kaneros. ‘We spent six months on the production, but rehearsals didn’t take up that much time. A lot went on behind the scenes,’ tells Gerrit van de Linde. The VHL lecturer in animal husbandry is clad in a blue tunic and sandals, with brightly coloured stripes on his face – the marks of a Druve. ‘It’s great to mix with students in such a different setting, and it’s a very international group.’

The opera involves a 37-strong orchestra and 40 actors. The name of the Druves, a peace-loving tribe of farmers, is derived from the road called Droevendaalsesteeg in Wageningen. Their enemies are the Kaneros, clog-wearing hunters. After the harvest festival and a budding romance, the Kaneros steal the Druves’ harvest and kill their leader in a fight. The brave Druves fight back. Divine intervention ensures that justice is done and in the closing scene a Chinese dragon blows the opera story out. The Druves leader, VHL master’s student Muchammadun Abdullah Chafidh from Indonesia, is not nervous on the eve of the big event. ‘Of course you need a bit of stress, but we’ve practised a lot.’

Teachers and students of Van Hall Larenstein and the university as well as their children and friends all helped to make the opera possible. ‘It’s incredible what they managed to do in such a short time,’ was the reaction of Jos Zandvliet, who composed the music, conducts and accompanies the orchestra on his banjo. Zandvliet was called in to help, although most of the production work was done by Van Hall Larenstein people. The former artistic leader of the Dutch performance art group Dogtroep now works a lot with amateurs in community art projects. ‘It’s about enjoying doing things together. Every community has potential, but I’ve never come across so much diversity as here: people from so many different cultures, from Nigeria and Tibet to Thailand,’ says Zandvliet enthusiastically. ‘The opera has everything: zest for life, creation and survival of the good. But in a light and playful way, without pretensions.’ / Alexandra Branderhorst

The last performance of The Valley of the Druves is on 8 September at 15.00 outside Forum.

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