"Evangeline Revisited"

Libretto is in French with English translation, what will they sing? . . . Cello solo starts Act II, Scene 1, in Longfellow’s study, minor key, mournful, agitated via dissonance . . . pulse is coming in, varied between fast and slow, like the way Mahler uses it in Das Lied . . . Longfellow is sung by a countertenor, interesting choice not explained by composer . . . singing in French, music and vocal line impassioned . . . highly melodramatic . . . music is lyrical and even lush . . . Soprano line equally impassioned, coloratura . . . libretto is dense, seems way too wordy, perhaps that’s why they are singing in French, it just is easier and sounds better to string out so many words. It’s composed of paragraphs, which I feel is not the way to write a libretto, it’s not prose, prose doesn’t work, which is why Terrence McNally’s ones don’t work. Music directly underlines what the singers are saying and feeling . . . it’s clear, but the combination of words and music seems more like a lecture, to my taste, than musical art . . . okay, that coloratura pitch is way overdone . . . singers are giving it their all . . . now Act II, Scene 5, camped in the Ozarks . . . music throughout has been Neo-Romantic. Quiet her, after the hectoring opening scene . . . Nice use of tubular bells as a melody instrument . . . this music for the Shawnee Woman is the best yet, although everything is still in a slightly too high, too overstated pitch and emotional range for my taste, which Evangeline I now reinforces, but perhaps the needed contrasts are in the parts of the work we are not hearing. Music is polished and quite nicely shaped here . . . this is very much in the Puccini tradition, in the way the characters sing to each other, I’m curious what staging does for it . . . this takes fewer chances than the previous work, and so succeeds in a less absolute way, how satisfying that is is a matter of taste, mine prefers Poulenc to Puccini, but your mileage may vary.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.