Nov. 9, 2004
Catholic University to Stage Copland’s “The Tender Land”
Catholic University will stage a chamber ensemble version of Aaron Copland’s folk opera “The Tender Land” that was arranged by CUA music school Dean Murry Sidlin at the request of the late composer.
The CUA Opera Theatre production of Copland’s coming-of-age tale brings together the artistic talents of CUA Orchestra conductor Kate Tamarkin as music director and Michael Scarola as stage director. The production will run Thursday, Nov. 11, through Saturday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 14, at 2 p.m. at Ward Recital Hall.
Sidlin’s revised score for “The Tender Land,” using the same 13 instruments Copland employed in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Appalachian Spring” (flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano and nine strings) resulted in a more “balanced opera and the Copland sound, which we have come to identify as the American sound,” says Sidlin.
As written by Copland, “The Tender Land” was problematic because the composer had created a chamber opera for the stage but a “grand, near-Wagnerian opera” for a full orchestra in the pit, says Sidlin. There were only 30 productions of the opera between 1954, when it premiered at the New York City Opera, and 1987, when Dean Sidlin’s chamber version was first performed.
In 1999 Sidlin recorded his chamber arrangement, featuring the Third Angle New Music Ensemble, with Koch International Classics. Since Sidlin revised the score, there have been approximately 150 productions of “The Tender Land.”
Commissioned by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, “The Tender Land” is set on the western prairie during the Depression and reflects Copland’s interest in rural America and the problems of young people. The opera was inspired by James Agee’s book “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” an account of the author’s journey with photographer Walker Evans through the Depression-era rural South.
Copland, who conceived the opera for singers in training, once remarked that he wrote it “to give young American singers material that they do not often get in the opera house; that is, material that would be natural for them to sing and perform.”
The opera tells the story of Laurie and her mother, Ma Moss, and the two drifters who enter their lives. When Laurie falls in love with one of the drifters, her world and her future are changed forever. In the liner notes for the Sidlin recording, Copland biographer Vivian Perlis writes that the music “brings to life the lonely yearnings and simple joys of these rural farm people.”
Director Scarola, a member of the New York City Opera’s directing staff, has directed “The Tender Land” at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, Calif., as well as numerous other operas with companies around the United States. He was also on the Metropolitan Opera’s directing staff for five seasons.
CUA graduate Patrick O’Neill, a 2003 Helen Hayes Award nominee for the title role in Studio Theatre Secondstage’s production of “Bat Boy: The Musical,” is doing the choreography for “The Tender Land.” Catholic University graduate students Adam Turner and Stephen Czarkowski will conduct selected performances.
Tickets are $5 to $20. Call 202-319-5416 for tickets and additional information.
MEDIA: To cover the event, contact the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.
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