By Mark Steil
May 17, 1999
A farm in southwest Minnesota probably is not the first place you'd expect a
professional opera and concert singer to call home. Can a singer from Chicago
and a farmer from Minnesota find happiness together? Will they bore each
other to tears? Will there be a never ending battle over what radio station
to tune in, country or classical? It almost sounds like a TV show.
DESPITE WHAT SOME PEOPLE THINK,
this is not a replay of the 1960's television
show "Green Acres." The one where a high cultured woman and her
husband move from New York city to the country. First of all, anyone who
remembers the sitcom's signature song knows TV's Lisa Douglas was not much
of a singer. Second, she never warmed to farm life, as Emily Lodine Overgaard
"Trisha Yearwood has a voice like Pavarotti, except in a different genre."
- Emily Lodine
Farming brought the two together in the first place. Gary
Overgaard had just bought a new piece of equipment, a field sprayer. As a
thank-you, the sprayer company gave Overgaard and the salesman a free trip to
the factory in Denmark. On the airplane, the farmer and the singer found
themselves sitting next to each other. Gary Overgaard asked what sort of work
"After she told me what she did I just turned to my buddy,
the salesman and I said 'I think this is going to be a pretty long boring
flight,'" Overgaard said. "Things just took off after that."
Instead of boredom, what happened next was seven hours of nearly non-stop
After parting that day, the two kept in touch. Visits followed, and finally
marriage. And that is how the opera singer and the farmer found happiness and music on the flatlands of southwest Minnesota.
Singing under her professional name of Emily Lodine, she appeared recently
with the Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra. The mezzo soprano has also
performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Berkshire Opera and the
Lyric Opera of Cleveland. Lodine says living in the country has made her work harder. "It gave me a fresh perspective," she says. "It also made me focus a lot harder and keep my contacts up and make my phone calls and not depend so much on my agent to do everything."
The marriage of the singer and the farmer produced a new appreciation of
different types of music. Gary Overgaard says everyone should see a full
scale opera, for its sets, costumes and singing. That's quite a shift from
his bachelor days. "The only opry I had was the
Grand Ole Opry," he laughs.
The opera singer learned a few things too. "I've come to like country
western music," she admits."And I never, in fact not only did I not listen to it I thought it was pretty horrible and hokey and corny. There are a lot of incredible artists, Trisha Yearwood has a voice like Pavarotti, except in a different genre."
And there were cultural changes. A self-confessed city kid, Emily went
straight from the bustle of urban life to the crisis on the farm.
That's not the sort of stuff you heard on "green acres". If there
must be a comparison, its probably closer to a radio show, one which sometimes features
norwegian bachelor farmers. Gary Overgaard was that bachelor farmer in a past
life and Emily Lodine was a city singer. Both are happy with their new lives,
music is close by and so is the quiet countryside.