UT Opera Ensemble, UT Symphony Orchestra to present Copland’s ‘The Tender Land’

November 20, 2013 | Events, UToday, — Communication and the Arts
By Angela Riddel

The University of Toledo Opera Ensemble, in a collaborative performance with the UT Symphony Orchestra, will present Aaron Copland’s opera, “The Tender Land,” Friday through Sunday, Nov. 22-24, in Doermann Theater.

Aaron Copland was inspired by photos by Walker Evans, like this one titled “House, Hale County (1935 or 1936),” to compose the opera, “The Tender Land.”

Aaron Copland was inspired by photos by Walker Evans, like this one titled “House, Hale County (1935 or 1936),” to compose the opera, “The Tender Land.”

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Copland composed the music for “The Tender Land,” with libretto by Horace Everett. His score was inspired by the photography of Walker Evans, who captured the bittersweet experience of the Depression-era farm family, as well as by the book titled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, which featured Evans’ photos.

The story of “The Tender Land” centers on Laurie, an ambitious young woman who comes of age during the Depression. Transformed from girl to woman by her first experience of love, Laurie discovers something she prizes more than love: freedom.

“Part of the reason we choose [this opera] is because of its Midwest setting and its accessibility for young singers,” said Dr. Denise Ritter Bernardini, assistant professor of music, director of the UT Opera Ensemble and producer of the production. “Since the work itself is fairly short in comparison to other operas, it is a good choice for a growing university opera and orchestra program.”

In reviewing the work for his website, USOpera.com, a site dedicated to American operas and their composers, Christopher Hapka wrote, “‘The Tender Land’ was commissioned from Copland by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Copland’s second opera is a much more mature work than the earlier ‘The Second Hurricane.’ Written for young singers, the work contains some of the best music of Copland’s mature years and deserves a greater place in the repertory. A number of recent recordings will hopefully help to raise its status among 20th century opera. The closing chorus of Act 1, ‘The Promise of Living,’ is often excerpted and sung by choruses.”

Copland revised the opera extensively, changing it from two acts to three. This version was released in 1955 and is the version The University of Toledo Opera Ensemble will perform.

Tickets are $10 and $8 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at utoledo.edu/boxoffice, by calling 419.530.2375, or by visiting the Center for Performing Arts Box Office.

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