* Notes *
The production of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land at Berkeley Opera is both lively and heartfelt. The music was quite cute and rather transparent, and the thirteen musicians sounded together under Philip Kuttner. The singing was consistent and the acting was convincing. The chorus sounded nice during the party scene in Act II.
Of the principals, contralto Julianne Booth (Ma Moss) was perhaps the weakest, she only sang the one performance on April 16, and she seemed off from the music at first. She also tripped at one point during the Act I. Paul Cheak sounded confident as Grandpa Moss, and even his lowest notes were not obscured by the orchestra. Lee Steward and Paul Murray were believable as the two strangers, Martin and Top, respectively. Their voices blended nicely together. Steward had some trouble with his highest notes, but managed to be heard. Amy Foote was darling as the heroine Laurie. She has a lovely voice, that has a wonderful ease until she gets to her upper register, where she does sound a bit strained. It seems that she needs to use a lot of vibrato to project her voice up at the top.
The production, directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, was tasteful and simple. Chad Owens' set was elegant, and the one major scene change in Act II was quite clever. Jeremy Knight's projections were for the most part not too cumbersome, and the switch from black and white to color near the end was effective.
* Tattling *
The much of the audience was inattentive, talking despite being hushed many times, and generally acted as if they were in their living rooms at home. The cynical woman in Row M Seat 30 was particularly obnoxious. In the second half she spent the whole time crumpling a cellophane packet of biscuits, which she never seemed to open or to put away. Before the end of the opera, when we could hear the exposed woodwinds still clearly playing, she declared, at full volume "Is that all?" to her companion, who did not respond audibly.