Is Grapes of Wrath the Great American Opera?
I don’t know Ricky Ian Gordon personally but he e-mails me frequently with updates on his projects, never neglecting to sign off with “xxxooo” which I find endearing although I’m sure he does the same for all the guys. I know and like his music mainly from Audra McDonald and a wonderful recording of his songs called Bright-Eyed Joy but nothing I’ve heard or read prepared me for the universal praise for the Minnesota Opera’s production of Gordon’s (with libretto by Michael Korie) The Grapes of Wrath. What we have here, apparently, is a real contender for the title of the Great American Opera.
Listen to the often cranky Mark Swed: “As far as I was concerned — and this is a minority opinion — the nearly four-hour opera was too short. Had Gordon and Korie been allowed to follow their original bliss and create a two-night or more American “Ring” cycle, I would have gladly returned for more.”
Or Variety: “Gordon and Korie have produced a bit of a conundrum: a very long show about suffering and endurance that leaves the viewer enlivened. The intelligence and compassion of their work, combined with the evident vitality and belief of the cast in this opera’s merit, supply high emotion with depth and compassion. This is not a happy story, but its telling is nothing short of incandescent.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press: “Ten years and $2 million in the making, the Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of “The Grapes of Wrath” turns out to be well worth the time and expense: It’s a grand, sprawling, politically astute and musically compelling affair that amply and accessibly answers the rhetorical question: ‘An opera about Okies?'”
Bernard Holland? Well, Bernie’s been sour grapes (not to mention irrelevant) for some time now.