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American Opera Classics - E. Thomas: Desire Under The Elms

Release Date: 10/22/2002 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8669001-02   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Edward Thomas
Performer:  Victoria LivengoodJeffrey LentzJerry HadleyMel Ulrich,   ... 
Conductor:  George Manahan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Edward Thomas' Desire Under the Elms, based on the Eugene O'Neill play, relates the story of Eben, a young farmer who becomes disgruntled when his father, Cabot, returns home after two month's absence with a new young wife, Abbie. Abbie makes no bones about her intentions to take possession of the family farm, which enrages Eben, who at first refuses to have any dealings with her. Finally Abbie succeeds in seducing Eben and becomes pregnant with his child. But, Eben does not have long to celebrate the birth of his new son before Cabot reveals he was promised a son by Abbie if he would agree to leave her the entire farm in his will. Enraged, Eben rejects Abbie and tells her he's leaving for
Read more California, driving the distraught Abbie to murder her newborn child in a final act of desperation.

For this dramatic scenario Thomas composed a powerfully vivid score that sometimes resembles Samuel Barber in its lurid romanticism. The harmonic language is primarily tonal, though shot through with pungent dissonance. Thomas brings all of his varied background--popular, commercial, and classical genres--to bear on Desire, making it a well-paced and strongly theatrical work with high emotional impact. The brilliant Act 2 trio is just one example. Here Thomas has Eben, Abbie, and Cabot singing the same lines to create three distinct, vastly different soliloquies.

Jerry Hadley portrays the young, hot-headed Eben's complex mixture of loyalty, loathing, and lust with intensely vivid singing, although his top notes sound a bit strained. Victoria Livengood offers an emotionally rich portrayal of the self-serving Abbie, while as Cabot, James Morris sings in a gruff, stentorian style tempered (as in his portrayal of Wotan) by a more burnished tone that reveals the character's tender side. Mel Ulrich and Jeffrey Lentz offer solid characterizations of Eben's older half-brothers. George Manahan leads the London Symphony in a cogent and confident reading of Thomas' crafty and colorful orchestral score.

The recording, produced by Thomas Z. Shepard, skillfully balances voices and orchestra in a vibrant acoustic setting. You even can understand most of the text without the libretto! Kudos to Naxos for presenting this important and intriguing work, performed with some of the big names in the business. Don't let the unassuming plain vanilla graphics mislead you--this is a major release.
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Desire Under the Elms by Edward Thomas
Performer:  Victoria Livengood (Mezzo Soprano), Jeffrey Lentz (Tenor), Jerry Hadley (Tenor),
Mel Ulrich (Baritone), James Morris (Bass Baritone), Darth Meadows ()
Conductor:  George Manahan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; USA 
Date of Recording: 07/2000 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, UK 
Length: 125 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Language: English 

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