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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Higdon: Cold Mountain

05/28/2017 1:00 pm
05/28/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The holiday we call Memorial Day today was originally known as Decoration Day, and it was dedicated to honoring those who died fighting in the American Civil War. On the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend I try to broadcast a recording of an opera that has a Civil War theme. I aired the BMOP Sound recording of Eric Sawyer's Our American Cousin (2007) about the Lincoln assassination on the Sunday of the 2009 Memorial Day weekend. Then on Sunday, May 24, 2015 came the Naxos release of Ricky Ian Gordon's Rappahannock County in its 2011 production by Virginia Opera. Then there's Paul Hindemith's requiem for Abraham Lincoln, When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd (1946), with its text taken from Walt Whitman's poem. A Telarc recording of that choral work I broadcast on Memorial Day Sundays in 2010 and 2014.

This Sunday I offer you Cold Mountain the opera, which like the 2003 Hollywood movie adaptation is based on the best-selling 1997 novel by Charles Frazier. The story of the opera, the movie and the book concerns a Confederate deserter who risks his life walking three hundred miles from an army hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina to get back to his beloved in the mountains on the Western border of the state. Tragically, he is killed by the vigilantes of the Home Guard.

Composer Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962) spent her youth in East Tennessee very close to the geographical setting of the story at Cold Mountain. The scenic region and its people are dear to her heart. Cold Mountain is her first opera. Santa Fe Opera gave the premiere production of it in 2015. It was recorded live in performance. The German label Pentatone issued the world premiere recording of Cold Mountain in 2016 on two compact discs in its "American Operas" series.