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Hartke: The Greater Good / Robertson, Worra, Abraham, Et Al


Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8669014   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Stephen Hartke
Performer:  Andrew WentzelChristine AbrahamJohn David De HaanJill Gardner,   ... 
Conductor:  Stewart Robertson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 23 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Based on a story by Guy de Maupassant and premiered at the Glimmerglass Opera (where this was recorded) in 2006, Stephen Hartke's The Greater Good is an effective piece of musical storytelling. It takes place during the Franco-Prussian War and concerns a group of arrogant French bourgeois, a political agitator, and a pair of nuns who are traveling by coach to escape the Germans. Among them is Boule de Suif (literally "Butterball", or more appallingly, "ball of lard"), a generously built prostitute. Trapped in the coach and then in a German-occupied inn, Boule turns out to be a sensitive, generous woman (yes, a prostitute with a heart of gold) who shares her past and her food with the others. When it looks as if the only Read more way the group will escape is if Boule sleeps with the Prussian Commandant, she does so for "the greater good" despite her hatred of the Germans. Rather than being grateful, her dreadful coach-mates judge her and ostracize her. It's a nasty satire of petit bourgeois shallowness and hypocrisy and a good story.

Hartke uses the orchestra to paint situations--ostinatos give us the rocking of the coach, strings yawn out of boredom or exhaustion, the harps tinkle when it snows. He uses the light clanging of spoons when the group finally gets to eat at the Inn, and when Boule is doing her duty with the Prussian officer we hear the creaking of bedsprings. It's a witty and entertaining if not memorable score; those looking for tunes will be disappointed.

The vocal lines are mostly exclamatory, save for a remarkable burst of coloratura from the Old Nun in Act 2, in which she delivers a lecture on duty. There is almost too much detail in the text (Hartke wrote the libretto from Philip Littell's adaptation of de Maupassant's story), particularly given that Naxos fails to supply a libretto and words only occasionally can be discerned. (A superb track-by-track summary is included--and there are more than 40 tracks on each CD--but we still lose a great deal.) In the final analysis, I'm not convinced that this is a particularly good subject for an opera.

The cast is excellent, with Caroline Worra shining as Boule, expressing the character's complexity well. Tenor John David De Haan and soprano Jill Gardner are good as the nasty L'Oiseaus, the very picture of middle-class awful people, and the rest of the ensemble cast is equally fine, with Jeanine Thames as the Old Nun a particularly vivid portrayal. Stewart Robinson's leadership is all we might ask. The opera's appeal will be a matter of taste; the performance can't be faulted.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
The Greater Good by Stephen Hartke
Performer:  Andrew Wentzel (Bass Baritone), Christine Abraham (Mezzo Soprano), John David De Haan (Tenor),
Jill Gardner (Soprano), Elaine Alvarez (Soprano), Christopher Burchett (Baritone),
Caroline Worra (Soprano), Jeanine Thames (Soprano), Dorothy Byrne (Mezzo Soprano),
Matthew Worth (Baritone)
Conductor:  Stewart Robertson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 2006; USA 
Venue:  Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, 
Length: 142 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, NY (07/30/2006 - 08/15/2006) 

Sound Samples

The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1, "Rouen, a Tuesday in late February, 1871, 4 AM"
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1: Count? (Carre-Lamadon, Count, Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1: I know, I know, you never want to, girl (Coachman)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1: Cigar? (Loiseau, Carre-Lamadon, Count, Coachman)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1: A lonely street or an alley (Loiseau, Carre-Lamadon, Count)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1: Say, know why they call her Ice Cream? (Coachman)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 1: You can get in if you want (Coachman)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 2, "Aboard the coach, starting out"
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 2: There was a boat (Coachman)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 2: These really are wonderful (The three wives)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 3, "Dawn": Darling, look! (The wives and their husbands)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 3: Do you know Mme. de Vidoudet? (The wives, later the nuns)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 3: Very bad for business, war (The husbands, later Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 4, "10 AM": What time d'you have? (The husbands, Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 4: If I were a big bad wolf (Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act I Inter-scene, "Noon": See anything? (M. & Mme. Carre-Lamadon)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5, "3 PM": Oh my God! (The husbands and wives, Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: I gotta hand it to you, girlie! (Loiseau, Boule, Cornudet, the nuns)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: Gentlemen, pardon me (Boule, later Loiseau and the Count)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: These are the tastes of ... (The wives, husbands, Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: Tiny gherkins, pickled onions! (The wives, husbands, Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: Men don't understand (The wives, Boule)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: You know how it was (Boule)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: At first I thought I'd stay (Boule)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: Someone helped me out (Boule, later the wives and husbands)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: It's like that Badinguet (Cornudet, Boule) 1:18
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: God it's cold! (The wives)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: Nothing but snow (Coachman, later Boule and the others)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 5: I think I see lights! (Boule, the wives and husbands)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6, "Arrival at Totes, 6 PM": Raus! Raus! Raus! (Prussian Officer)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: Come in, come in (The Follenvies)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: Monsieur Follenvie! (The Follenvies)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: Things are looking up! (The husbands, Follenvie, Cornudet)\
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: Mademoiselle Elisabeth Rousset? (Officer, Boule, later the Count)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: Well, you see how things are (Mme. Follenvie)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: It's a funny thing waking up under occupation (Mme. Follenvie)\
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: They're pigs! (Boule, Mme. Follenvie, the wives)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 6: An unprovoked attack is barbaric! (Cornudet, Mme. Follenvie)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 7, "In the Inn, 10 PM": What a collection! (The Loiseaus)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 7: Our little Miss has to siss (Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 7: Come to my room (Cornudet, Boule)
The Greater Good: Act I Scene 7: Oh boy! (Loiseau, later Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 1, "The Inn at Totes, Wednesday, 8 AM"
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 1: What the devil? (The husbands, Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 1: Yes? (Coachman, the husbands)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 1: M. Follenvie! We demand an explanation! (The husbands, Follenvie)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 2, "Later Wednesday afternoon": I miss my cat (Countess)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 2: This snow. This blasted snow (Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 2: Oh how I wish that I was in my house (Mme. Carre-Lamadon)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 2: Who is it? (The wives, Carre-Lamadon, later the Count)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 2: Nein! Dunt vant! Dunt care! (Loiseau, Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 3, "Wednesday, suppertime": Oh, look, how lovely (All)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 3: You tell that bastard (Boule, later the others)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 3: What's all this about? (All)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 3: Please, eat (Mme. Follenvie)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 4, "Out in the village, Thursday morning": It's so cold (The wives)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 4: I have an enormous shipment (Loiseau, the Count, Carre-Lamadon)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 4: Oh look! Isn't that him? (The wives, later Mme. Carre-Lamadon alone)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 4: Oh, Boule de Suif! (Coachman, Boule)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 4: I hate this place (Coachman)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 5, "The Inn, Friday morning": Going out? (Mme. Carre-Lamadon, Boule)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 5: I have a child (Boule)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 5: Let's face it (Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 5: Let's just tie her up (Loiseau, the Count)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6, "Friday, suppertime": Ah! Mme. Follenvie, we thank you (The Count)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: Now see if you remember (The Count)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: I know, I know! (The Countess, Count)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: I've got one, and it's a real corker! (Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: Well spoken, Loiseau (The Count, later Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: Listen to me! (Old Nun)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: Oh but they were angels to my boys (Old Nun)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: Yes, good sister (Count, Follenvie)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 6: Child, you don't know what to do, do you? (The Count, Boule)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 7, "Saturday, suppertime": Have you seen her? (The wives and husbands, the Follenvies)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 7: Is it a go? (The husbands, Follenvie, the wives)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 7: I think everything's gonna be just fine (Loiseau, the wives)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 7: Good God! Forty minutes! (The nuns, Count, later Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 7: This is infamous! (Cornudet)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 7: Good Lord! An hour twenty! (The husbands)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8, "Courtyard of the Inn, Saturday morning"
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Good morning! (Husbands and wives)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Let's go! (Coachman, Mme. Follenvie)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Good morning, madame (Boule, later Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Setting off for Dieppe
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Prime ... bonds (The Count, Carre-Lamadon, the nuns)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Ubi caritas (The nuns, M. & Mme. Loiseau)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Good heavens! One o'clock! (The Count, Loiseau, the wives)
The Greater Good: Act II Scene 8: Darling look! (The Carre-Lamadons, Mme. Loiseau, Cornudet)

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