Tender Land, The
- Vivian Perlis
Opera in three acts by Aaron Copland to a libretto by Horace Everett [Erik Johns] after James Agee’s book Let us now Praise Famous Men; New York, City Center Theater, 1 April 1954.
Copland’s second opera was commissioned by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II through the League of Composers for the society’s 30th anniversary. Set in the American Mid-west in the mid-1930s during harvest time, the plot concerns a farm family: Ma Moss (contralto), her daughter Laurie (soprano), about to graduate from high school, Laurie’s ten-year-old sister Beth (spoken) and Grandpa Moss (bass). Two drifters, Martin (tenor) and Top (baritone), appear at the farmhouse asking for odd jobs. Grandpa and Ma Moss are reluctant, since they have heard reports of two men molesting young girls in the area, but with Laurie’s urging, the men are hired. Martin and Top are accused of being the molesters. Although the accusations are soon proved false, the men are asked to leave in the morning. At the party the evening before graduation, Laurie and Martin fall in love and plan to run away together. Top convinces Martin that the road is no place for Laurie. When Laurie discovers that Martin has gone without her, she decides to leave home anyway. Ma Moss looks to her younger daughter as the continuation of the family legacy....