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Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
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Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson "The Mother of Us All" (1947)
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Music by Virgil Thomson. Text by Gertrude Stein.Conducted by Raymond Leppard.
The Santa Fe Opera, Raymond Leppard; Mignon Dunn, James Atherton, Philip Booth, Ashley Putnam
The Mother of Us All is one of the few truly great American operas. The second and final collaboration between Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein (she died before hearing the score), Mother is marvelous poetic theater, fusing Stein's rich and resonant libretto with Thomson's "â€¦memory-book of Victorian play-games and passionsâ€¦with its gospel hymns and cocky marches, its sentimental ballads, waltzes, darned-fool ditties, and intoned sermons â€¦a souvenir of all those sounds and kinds of tunes that were once the music of rural America." (Thomson's own description).
Because of its humane complexity and the unity of its artistic vision, The Mother of Us All remains an astonishing work of American musical theaterÃ³probably the finest of its kind. It never fails to make an impact, no matter what is done to it. It has been performed in opera houses and church basements; with full orchestra, a single piano, or any number of combinations in between; with a cast of thirty professionals or with eight amateurs doubling on all the parts. It is indestructible.