Daughter of the South, a one-act opera, is part of Albany Records' ambitious 10-disc project devoted to the music of American composer Edward Joseph Collins (1886-1951). Excerpts were performed in concert during the composer's lifetime, but this recording offers the first opportunity to hear the complete opera. Parts of the score were lost, but it has been seamlessly completed by librettist Charles Kondek and composer Daron Hagen, who relied almost exclusively on other material by Collins to fill the gaps. The opera is beautifully performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra & Chorus, energetically led by Marin Alsop. The soloists are of variable quality; in the leading roles, soprano Lisa Milne and baritone Peter Coleman-Wright make strong impressions, but Peter Auty's strangled tenor hardly projects the heroism the role requires. Mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker and bass-baritone Keel Watson are effective in the secondary parts. The opera, completed in 1939, is firmly rooted in post-Romanticism. The score recalls the effulgent lyricism of film scores of the era, and while it has none of the sophistication of the carefully researched regionalism Gershwin used in Porgy and Bess, it's flavored with a folksy American character. Collins was an inventive orchestrator and his text setting is intelligent, if a little stiff. The creaky libretto, by the composer, is dramatically simplistic and offers an embarrassingly naïve picture of the Antebellum South, with happy, dancing slaves who wouldn't dream of leaving their benevolent masters. It's a score with attractive moments, but as a whole, it does not have the consistency or distinctiveness to merit revival, especially given the neglect of other operas of that era by Deems Taylor, Howard Hanson, and Louis Gruenberg, that are of far greater significance and musical interest. It's a valuable document, though, of early 20th century American post-Romantic opera, a genre that's virtually invisible to most listeners and opera lovers.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Daughter of the South|