A. Desire Under the Elms –
10/10 Review (Artistic Quality: 10; Sound Quality: 10), March 2003
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...
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... this is a major release.
Victor Carr Jr
2. Opera News, March
Thomas's adaptation fits comfortably into the increasingly mature
tradition of American opera. the piece is stimulating and gripping
as a whole. Thomas convinces the listener that this classic play
truly gains from being musicalized. One outstanding example is the
bedroom scene, wherein Cabot prattles self-absorbedly to Abbie while
she and Eben become more and more aware of each other's erotic presence
through the wall separating their rooms. A memorable scene in the
play, it is even better here a turbulent, emotional, well-laid-out
trio that reaches its musical peak with a gratifying payoff. The
London Symphony Orchestra under George Manahan plays the score as
if it were a familiar and beloved repertory item.
3. American Record
Guide, March-April 2003
Thomas has found an eminently effective style of setting the text
that is serious, of emotional depth and richness, with extensive
passages of recitative-like music blossoming into lyrical out bursts
of melodic beauty.
Charles H. Parsons
4. BBC Music Magazine, November
2003. Performance: 4 stars; Sound: 4 stars
"American opera may be getting harder to define, but this work,
written in the Seventies, feels like the real thing. It certainly
taps into one of America's most distinctive operatic strains, and
perhaps the most successful one: billed as a 'folk opera,' Desire
Under the Elms harks back to works like Floyd's Susannah (and even,
by extension, Porgy and Bess). The composer Edward Thomas seems
to have been ideally equipped to create a lyrical yet tense piece
of music theatre. Performance and Sound: Four Stars."
John Allison, BBC Music
5. Gramophone, November 2003
"Thomas's theatrical instincts are sure, and the drama is compelling
from beginning to end. This set is strongly recommended. Perhaps
it will inspire some opera companies to produce the work. It's easy
to imagine that Thomas's Desire Under the Elms would be even more
effective on stage than it is on disc."
Andrew Farach-Colton, Gramophone
6. Classical Music
Web, September 2003
"The writing is luminous, lyrically intense, redolent of pastoral
scenes but with a perfervid psychological subtext of envy, jealousy
Human foibles, tragedy and sin are reflected unflinchingly in Thomas's
knowingly pastoral-verismo score. Not a naive bone in its body."
Rob Barnett, Classical Music Web
7. Classical Music
Web, October 2003
"Thomas has a very sure dramatic and theatrical touch and is
a most effective orchestrator. The drama is well conveyed through
Edward Thomas's music. Searingly dramatic. A very fine, well-crafted
and theatrical work."
John Quinn, Classical Music Web
second review (MusicWeb.uk.net)
B. Desire Under the Elms performance
1. New York Daily
AN OPERA THAT'S ALL YOU COULD 'DESIRE'
By Bill Zakariasen
This new opera is a first-rate piece of musical theater. In fact,
it's one of those works, such as Verdi and Boito's "Otello,"
that actually improves upon its source. Masteroff's canny, concise
libretto eschews hortatory breast-beating for completely believable
and often heartbreaking realism, and Thomas' flavorful score melodic
yet always contemporary and full of felicitous orchestral effects
really gets under the surface of the characters and situations.
2. New York Post,
Friday, January 13, 1989
'DESIRE' TAKES WING AT CITY CENTER
By Susan Elliott
Characterized as an American folk opera, "Desire Under the
Elms" had its world premiere Wednesday night at the City Center
in a smoothly executed production by the New York Opera Repertory
Theater. Thomas' score part Bernstein, part Ravel, part Copland
is lush and lyrical, and uses dissonance sparingly with good dramatic
3. The Record, Friday,
January 13, 1989
A FINE OPERA VERSION OF O'NEILL'S 'ELMS'
By Peter Wynne
Thomas is already a master of setting English to music... the 40-piece
orchestra played like a dream under the baton of conductor Leigh
C. "Concerto for Clarinet
and Orchestra," Master Virtuosi of New York
1. High Fidelity
From the somber introduction to the upward tremolando rush of its
conclusion, it is a thoroughly absorbing, lively, and vari-colored
work. I hope that every subsequent performance of it involves such
a complete virtuosic treatment as that accorded by Sidney Fell,
the evening's soloist.
D. "Fantasy for Two Clarinets,"
New York Virtuosi
1. Dotted Notes from
John de Clef Pineiro, November 2003 critic for music quarterly
Harmonically reminiscent of the second half of the 20th Century,
this Fantasy covers much musical ground, virtually spanning the
gamut from the concert hall to the cinematic screen, and moodwise
from dark-sounding passages to dancey syncopated rhythms and phrasings
having a distinct Middle Eastern flavor.
© Edward Thomas, 2021