The adage that advises against placing all of one's eggs in one basket is well echoed in the Tender opera land, and rightfully so. An awkward situation ensues for Ma Moss and Grandpa Moss, after pegging all of their hopes on Ma's daughter, Laurie. Laurie is a life-curious young girl who is on the verge of graduating from her high school studies. Hailing from a family in the rural areas that survive on farm-work, she sets out on a path of discovery for more out of life despite suffering the unpleasant effects of the economic downturn.
The tender land follows an all too simple plot that culminates in a love affair between Laurie and Martin, a drifter who is working as their farm hand. Maybe as a result of its sparing language or for the intended effect, the story rouses questions surrounding Laurie's decision to leave home; was her love real or was it merely a desire to spread her wings that juxtaposed her to Martin? Ma moss's loving character is distinct through her actions as she strives to provide a better life for them than she had. In the first act when Laurie's graduation dress arrives, she says," this is like the dress I never had; only the heavens know how much I have missed" (The Tender Land).
In an adaptation by the Chelsea Opera in 2014, The Tender Land-still- did not rise above the average prevailing opinion concerning its failure to portray drama. Severally, and almost in all occasions, the mention of the Opera spurs conversations about its shortcomings about the language used and development of the story. According to theatre critic Charles, (2015), the words lack the deep involvement of the character traits.
Jeanne Brittingham, who played the character of Laurie in this adaptation, accurately demonstrated the ideal combination of Laurie's attentive personality and bright tone. In the stages where the opera falls short, such as the brief disarray of emotions in the plain love story of Laurie and Martin, Jeanne displayed such a touching tenderness. Even the manner in which Laurie is drawn out to search for a broader world is only vague. The music in the first act, while still considered pretty, again comes off very slowly much like the plots that develop. Musical composer Copland admitted this during an interview that aired on radio in 1980, saying that the opera is only a representation of a typical individual as opposed to developing the characters sufficiently (Patton, 330).
There have been many more showings since it first debuted in 1954, all hoping to raise the little-known work out of oblivion (Latham, 68). The Michigan opera theatre, so dedicated, has aired it three times so far; presenting it as a beautifully sung, rendered piece. In one such showing where actor Harry Greenleaf was cast as Top, he was the one who shone best. He stole the scene with his essence accurately capturing Top's friendly nature, and his intricate manner of speech played favorably towards the character's trait of always speaking his mind (Woolfe, 1). Raehann Bryce- Davis, who portrayed the character, Ma Moss, gave a disappointing performance; often drowning in the orchestra noise especially in her first scenes. As the opera progressed though, she demonstrated a master performance in terms of nuances.
The tender land remains appropriate for theatre audiences especially those in schools and colleges. It gives subtle life lessons about conquering fear and accepting change in the face of adversity and achieves that objective where the Laurie still chooses to leave. The theme of taking change is accomplished through Ma' Moss, who even though grief-stricken by Laurie's departure, shifts focus to her younger daughter. Though seldom talked about in a good light, it's deserving of the chances it receives and holds potential for so much more.
Latham, Edward. Tonality as Drama: Closure and interruption in four twentieth-century American operas. University of North Texas Press, 2017.
Patton, Christopher W. "Discovering" The Tender Land": A New Look at Aaron Copland's Opera." American Music (2002): 317-340.
Woolfe, Zachary "Drifters look for work, one of them finds love." The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 June 2014,www.nytimes.cm/2014/06/17/arts/music/copelans-the-tender-land-is-revived-by-Chelsea-opera.html.
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