DAILY CAMERA: CU production brings out aching beauty of ‘Tender Land’
Aaron Copland’s only full opera, “The Tender Land,” has no villains, a conflict that should have been easy to resolve but isn’t, and an ambivalent heroine whose self-centeredness somehow doesn’t mask her bravery and nobility.
Set in the American Midwest of the 1930s, the 1954 score is reminiscent of “Oklahoma!” if that musical from a decade earlier were an hour shorter, dispensed with all the high drama, and ended with a sigh rather than a shout (curiously enough, “Oklahoma!” creators Rodgers and Hammerstein were involved with the commission for “The Tender Land”). The heroines even have the same name.
With all of that, “The Tender Land” is gorgeous. Within just a few bars, the unmistakable musical language of its composer is evident. The University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program’s production of the piece opens tonight at the Imig Music Theater.
At dress rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday, conductor Joshua Horsch led his small ensemble with loving sensitivity, caressing Copland’s harmonies and letting the lead melodic lines soar. The 1987 chamber arrangement by Murry Sidlin (approved by Copland three years before his death) allows the vocal lines to penetrate and the words to be clear.