The Great Depression deeply changed the way in which our world works and fundamentally morphed our culture to an extent rarely seen elsewhere in history.
As part of that overwhelming revamping, the way poverty and pain is expressed through art also transformed.
The emotionally charged, powerful images captured by Walker Evans and literary masterpieces like “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee influenced great American composer Aaron Copeland to write the famous opera “The Tender Land,” which will be presented by the University of Virginia’s College at Wise at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol.
The production features UVa-Wise students in lead roles, with Wise County Public Schools students in supporting and ensemble roles.
Originally written for the NBC Television Opera Workshop, the production was presented for the first time on April 1, 1954 at the New York City Opera and received poor reviews for elements relating to its adaptation from television to stage. Copeland tweaked his work, and future showings received more favorable critical reviews.
The opera follows a young girl graduating high school in the early 1930s in the rural Midwest. The tale is one of love and loss as the girl experiences the trials and tribulations of growing up in a world of poverty with little chance for improvement. As she seeks to make her own path, she must battle familial and societal forces standing in her way with willpower and perseverance.
This story exemplifies the real-world problems associated with life, exacerbated by a problematic environment in a desolate and deserted part of the heartland.
The performance concludes the season for the Southwest Virginia Summer Opera Company, a project of UVa-Wise.
Tickets are $12.50 for adults and $10 for seniors and students, and are available by calling the Paramount Box Office at (423) 274-8920 or by visiting www.theparamountcenter.com.
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