New Production, 2016

Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam

Director: Alison Moritz

Conductor: Kirk Severtson

Scenic Designer: Ann Beyersdorfer

Costume Designer: Catherine Mason

Lighting Designer: Tonry Lathroum

Photo Credit: Katrina Sheats

Director’s Note:

“You must be in tune with the times and prepared to break with tradition.” (James Agee)

The Tender Land is part of a fascinating period in American music-theatre when the genre lines between musicals, operas, television, and film were blurred, as were the distinctions between “high art” and popular culture. In 1951, the first opera written for television (Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors) premiered on NBC, becoming the most successful venture during the 14 year span of the NBC Opera Theatre, a company specifically established to create televised adaptations of operas in English. Less than a year later, NBC commissioned composer Aaron Copland to write an opera for television, and that project turned into The Tender Land - a story about a Depression-era family in the Midwest, inspired by the work of James Agee and Walker Evans.

This opera was not destined to be televised, though, and it received its premiere in 1954 at New York City Opera instead. Critics disliked the show, and many deemed the intimate scale of a story created for television to be unsuitable for the operatic stage. Our production of The Tender Land is an attempt to highlight the emotional realism and intimacy of this wonderful piece and to show that those qualities are not antithetical to being “operatic.”