ERIC SAWYER (b.1962): Our American Cousin.
Catalogue Number: 08K103
Label: Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Reference: BMOP/sound 1006
Description: Sawyer's opera tells the story of Lincoln's assassination, centering on the actors present in the theater on the night. The shallow motivations of Booth - himself an actor by trade, who anticipated his treacherous act of violence as a magnificent coup de théâtre, ensuring his place in history - are portrayed as two-dimensional artifices, as illusory as the machinations of the characters in the comedy that the president was watching when he was shot. The more complex lives of the actors in the play, including the two who might have thwarted Booth but failed to do so, and the effects of the Civil War on the population, are more central than Booth himself. The play is performed as the main action of act 2, before the dramatic intersection of fiction and reality in act 3. In idiom, Sawyer's music is somewhere between Britten and Bernstein - resolutely tonal - and conforms to operatic conventions, with arias and choruses and dramatic set-pieces, without impeding the progress of the narrative. Some elements of period Americana are incorporated in the choruses of factions of the public affected by recent events (nurses, the war-wounded) that lend context to the reactions of the audience to the play and the assassination alike. The whole is a provocative exercise in examining a complex historical event from unusual perspectives, and as such its straightforward musical language and clear narrative structure render its character-driven content all the more strongly. 2 CDs. Libretto included. Jana Baty (mezzo), Alan Schneider (tenor), Aaron Engebreth (baritone), The Amherst College Concert Choir, Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose.