The Tender Land

 The Tender Land is an opera with music by Aaron Copland and libretto by Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. The opera tells of a farm family in the Midwest of the United States. Copland was inspired to write this opera after viewing the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and reading James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. He wrote the work between 1952 and 1954 for the NBC Television Opera Workshop, with the intention of its being presented on television. However, the television producers rejected the opera. Eventually, the work had its premiere on April 1, 1954 at the New York City Opera, with Thomas Schippers as the conductor, Jerome Robbins as the director, and a cast including the young Norman Treigle. The opera was poorly received at its premiere. Contemporary criticism commented on the weaknesses of the opera's characters and the storyline. Later analysis by Christopher Patton stated that one underlying cause of the opera's failure at the premiere was the contrast between writing for the intimate medium of television, the originally intended medium of the work, versus the more public and larger-scale setting of an opera house. An orchestral suite based on the opera was later compiled by Copland in 1958. Copland and Johns later made revisions to the opera.

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