The Tender Land | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Tender Land


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The Tender Land, Aaron Copland's only opera besides a student work, is a midwestern pastoral tinged with sadness and sentimentality. Its plot, set during the Depression, is simple, direct, almost archetypal. A farmer's daughter falls in love with a migrant harvester, and when he fails to keep a promise to elope with her she goes out into the world alone. The music is openhearted, rhythmic, and tuneful, evocative of Copland's famous ballet scores. In fact there's a hoedown for the chorus in act two and other vigorous dance passages. This opera, which premiered in 1954, has never been as popular as Copland's orchestral works, perhaps because of its contrived ending and lack of psychological nuances, but its charming all-American arias are reason enough to revive it. This is the first time this near classic is being presented in Chicago, and the Chicago Opera Theater has fielded an excellent cast trained in musical theater, including Rita Harvey (as Laurie), Dorothy Byrne (Ma Moss), Adam Klein (Martin), and Arnold Voketaitis (Grandpa Moss). Carl Ratner, who's adept at handling 20th-century operas, directs, and Lawrence Rapchak conducts. Friday, 7:30 PM, Sunday, 3 PM, and Thursday and next Saturday, July 1, 7:30 PM, Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo; 292-7578.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Dan Rest.

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