Rita Dove: Thomas and Beulah

Rita Dove: Thomas and Beulah

Grandparents revisited
Amnon Wolman
Rita Dove
Amnon Wolman
Cynthia Haymon
Ursula Oppens
Catalog Number: 
new classical
solo voice

Evanston, IL

Release Date: 
Apr 25, 2002
Liner Notes: 
2 CD
One Sheet: 

A theatrical song-cycle based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poems by Rita Dove.

In Thomas and Beulah, Dove, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, eloquently traces the lives of her grandparents. In live performance hanging scrims and theatrical lighting were used to separate and illuminate each audience section, providing a physical parallel to the music's changing points of view. This dramatic setting is recaptured on the multi-media portion of the disc which features a 15-minute video, complete texts, scores and background information, all in a 3-D animated setting. 



"This is no song cycle in any traditional sense. Wolman's reputation derives chiefly from his works that incorporate computer-generated sounds, often combined with acoustic instruments. Here he carries his electronic experiments a step further. The vocal lines consist of chant, song, recitation and a kind of intermediate speech-song. Oppens manipulates the vocal sounds in real time at her computerized "prepared" piano. She also controls a second, prerecorded layer of accompaniment that incorporates Dove reading her own poetry. The vocal writing is accessible, even pretty, unfolding with sweet, diatonic, repetitive simplicity. Haymon clung to single pitches for long stretches, while Oppens summoned a delicate array of color effects from her switched-on keyboard, from a tinny pianola to winds whooshing through trees: the dreamlike serenity of Wolman's soundscape, and the great skill and sensitivity with which the singer and pianist evoked it." - John von Rhein


An extraordinary achievement! It should be mentioned that the soprano singing Rita Dove's Pulitzer Prize-winning poems in Amnon Wolman's musical tour de force is Cynthia Haymon, who achieved international fame a few years back when she sang Porgy in Trevor Nunn's outstanding Glyndebourne Festival production of "Porgy & Bess" (available on both CD and DVD). Ms. Haymon has given vocal justice to Rita Dove poems before --most notably in the song cycle "Seven for Luck", composed by John Williams and conducted by him in 1998 both at Tanglewood (with the Boston Symphony) and on the PBS program "Boston Pops". (Unfortunately not yet available on CD; a surprising fact, considering that John Williams, honored with half a dozen or so Oscars and with his movie music in everyone's ear, is one of the most famous composers of our time. "Seven for Luck" is not only a beautiful work, a prime example of a successful writer-composer collaboration, but also unique in the sense that Williams deviated from his usual symphonic approach and subjected himself to words.)