Philip Westin header image 2  
Composer, Conductor



Heartland Masthead



Click here to view

the entire 20-minute film.





To view video clips from the film,

click on one of the links below.

Video Clip 1: Introduction

Video Clip 2: Lyrics and Music

Video Clip 3: Music Style No. 1

Video Clip 4: Americana

Video Clip 5: Music Style No. 2

Video Clip 6: Spring Will Come Again

Video Clip 7: High Notes

Video Clip 8: Requiem Aeternam

Video Clip 9: Tintypes

Video Clip 10: Write New Stories

Alex D'Lerma

Alex D'Lerma

            Heartland is a full-length Musical Theatre work based on the Willa Cather novel, O Pioneers! The libretto was written by Burt Peachy. Completed in 2006, the work was realized in a studio demonstration recording in mid 2007. Click here to access audio clips from the 2-CD demonstration recording of Heartland.

            During the recording sessions, filmmaker Alex D'Lerma captured scenes and interviews of some of the performers by Karen Sharp, radio personality and host of KOST 103.5's Lovesongs on the Coast. He then used that footage to develop a documentary, The Making of Heartland.

            In April, 2008 Heartland was one of four works selected in a national competition to be presented at the ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop at Disney Studios headed by Grammy and Acdemy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz and featuring a world-renowned cadre of panelists.

World renowned violist and professor at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music Donald McInnes said of the piece, "Heartland is a wonderful new work that is simply the 'Appalachian Spring' of the opera world.  Without question, this great work will fill a large gap in the lyric theatre repertoire!




The Making

of Heartland

a documentary film by

Alex D'Lerma.



Presented courtesy of

Tostado Productions

Copyright (c) 2007 byTostado Productions



            Heartland opens (Song of the Land) on a blustery winter day, in the town of Hanover, Nebraska, sometime between 1873 and 1880. We are introduced to four principal characters: the very young Emil Bergstrom; his stalwart older sister, Young Alexandra; her friend, Young Carl Lindstrum; and a pretty little Bohemian child, Marie Tovesky. The townsfolk, especially the young men, fawn over pretty little Marie (If I Come A Courtin’). From town, Emil and Alexandra and their neighbor Carl return home to the desolate stretch of plains known as the Divide. Alexandra's father, John Bergstrom, is dying (My Time Is Short). He tells his two eldest sons, Oscar and Lou, that he is entrusting the farmland, and the preservation of all that he has accomplished since his immigration from Sweden, to his daughter. Young Alexandra expresses her fear in what lies ahead and her love for her dying father (Tintypes).

            Six months after John Bergstrom’s death the family goes for an outing (Transition to Scene 5 and Shootin’ Buddies – Best of Friends) and it becomes clear that Alexandra is stronger and more resolute than her brothers. When drought and depression strike for the next two years (Interlude – The Hardship of the Plains), Alexandra's determination allows her to persevere. Many families, including Carl Lindstrum’s, sell their farms and move away. But Alexandra believes in the promise of the untamed country, so she convinces her brothers to re-mortgage their farm and buy more land. She also convinces them to adopt innovative farming techniques (Look Ahead).

            The action jumps twelve years into the future, when Alexandra's faith in the land has been repaid. Lou and Oscar are married, and each owns his own farm. Alexandra's farm is the most prosperous on the Divide. Emil has been provided the wealth and luxury to leave the Divide for the State University. Crazy Ivar, the elderly, slightly imbalanced man who, earlier in the play, gave Alexandra some controversial farming advice, now works in Alexandra's stables, although Lou and Oscar disapprove of his presence. Emil, now a university graduate has returned home while Marie Shabata, nee Tovesky, is in a loveless marriage to Frank, a man twice her age. It is apparent that Emil is in love with Marie (I Can’t Wait Till Sunday) while she dismisses his overtures. Alexandra throws a big Sunday dinner for her family (Sunday Dinners) where the friction between herself and her brothers becomes pronounced.  Amid this underlying tension, Carl Lindstrum returns for a long visit after years of travel (Nothing Changes). The scene shifts to a sunny morning on the farm as folks move to the fields with hoes and shovels. Marie and Emil stroll together and again Emil makes known his feelings toward her, but once more she rebuffs his advances (Underscoring for Scene 13).

            At the annual French Country Fair (M’embrasser! [Kiss Me!]), we meet Amadee Chavalier, Emil’s best friend, who urges him to marry soon. Alexandra and Carl have slowly regained their past intimacy. In reaction, Lou and Oscar move to drive Carl out of town, fearing that his relationship with Alexandra might threaten their own children's prospects of inheriting Alexandra's farm. Emil decides to travel to Mexico City, fleeing the temptation that Marie presents while Frank Shabata overhears their longings (The End of Good Times).  — [End of Act One.]

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The next day, Frank confronts Marie in anger and exposes his jealousy (I’ll Be Watching You). A few months later, Marie and Alexandra read Emil’s letters (You’re Never Out Of My Mind) and Marie privately yearns for his return (Spring Will Come Again). Emil returns from Mexico nearly a year later and, at the French Church Social (It’s A New Dance), finds that his love for Marie has grown during their separation. He and Marie privately profess their love for each other. At that same moment, tragedy strikes: his best friend, Amedee, dies unexpectedly. At a church requiem mass, Emil enters a state of utter resolve to take Marie away with him (Requiem Aeternam / I Must Follow My Heart). After the service, he runs after her, finds her waiting for him in her orchard, and lies down next to her. Her jealous husband, Frank Shabata, finds them. Blinded by fury, he shoots them both dead (Death Scene).

            Months after the murders, Alexandra Bergstrom has achieved some limited recovery from her sorrow (Underscoring – You’re Never Out Of My Mind Reprise); she now possesses a stoic exhaustion with life. The ghosts of her departed return to her (Spring Will Come Again Reprise) and finding comfort in these dreams of herself with her father, she resolves to go on with her life on the farm (Write New Stories). At she begins to exit, she finds Carl Lindstrum waiting for her. As soon as he heard of Emil's death, he returned from Alaska. They find comfort and companionship in each other, and decide to marry; but Alexandra, being the determined woman that she is, promises to always take care of the land that has been entrusted to her by her father (Song of the Land Reprise and Look Ahead Reprise) — [End of Act Two.]

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