The Tender Land (Aaron Copland) Cochrane Theatre 19 September 2009

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A picture of Aaron Copland

A picture of Aaron Copland

S0.  Didn’t know what to expect here.  The stage had a cardboard moon to the left and a minor platform with a rocking chair on the right.  Some musicians (piano/conductor, two viloins, cello base and flute as per the programme) played in darkness at the back of the stage.

The story is simple enough.  We are on a farm in the middle of nowhere (or the Midwest as they say in America).  It is the day before Laurie, the daughter of the house, graduates from high school (a good thing).  On the other hand, a couple of bums have been interfering with local womenfolk (a bad thing).  A couple of bums–Martin and Top–do indeed arrive, and Grandpa takes them on to help with the harvest, although he doesn’t like strangers.

There is a party to celebrate Laurie’s upcoming graduation, accompanied by folk dancing folk songs etc.  Martin and Laurie are in love and exchange a kiss.  Grandpa rounds on the newcomers, then the  postman returns with the news that the bad bums have been arrested so these can’t be they.  Martin and Laurie plan to leave together at daybreak, then Martin decides that will cause trouble so he and Top run away beforehand.  Laurie decides she can no longer go through with the graduation and life on the farm and leaves on her own at daybreak.

And the music is very lovely in the this-is-so-simple-it-can’t-work-but-it-does Britten manner–like two Church Parables welded together.   And Ma Moss who is there at the beginning and there at the end is like the Abbot from Curlew River [? what about Rape of Lucretia].  This part was well sung by Natasha Dobie, while Amy Castledine was fetching (if not always especially audible)  as Laurie Moss.  The policy of casting actors from musicals rather than opera singers was not without its problems, especially in the form of David O’Mahony as Martin.

But all in all a very worthwhile evening–just a pity the audience wasn’t more numerous!

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