University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Gordon: Rappahannock County

05/28/2023 1:00 pm
05/28/2023 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Ricky Ian Gordon (b. 1956) made a name for himself first as a composer of songs, then more recently of lyric theater music in the genre of the song cycle. He has tackled one of the most traditional subjects in all of operatic literature, the ancient Greek Orphic myth. I aired the world premiere recording of his Orpheus and Euridice (2006) on Sunday, July 6, 2008. He has also taken on historical subjects.

His dramatized song cycle, Rappahannock County, (2009/10) practically demands to be heard on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, began as a special day to honor those who fought and died in the American Civil War. The songs of Rappahannock County are grouped as if they were five acts of an opera, one act for each year of the conflict, from 1861 in succession to 1865. The location of the Rappahannock River in Virginia serves as a boundary between North and South. The lyrics of Mark Campbell are derived ultimately from letters, diaries and personal accounts from the 1860s. A cast of five singers portray more than thirty different characters. They bring the period to life and express the devastating impact the war had on all who endured it.

Ricky Ian Gordon's Rappahannock County premiered at the Virginia Arts Festival , with performers drawn from the Virginia Opera company. Rob Fischer directed the Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra. The recording was made in the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, VA. Naxos Records issued Rappahannock County on two CDs in 2013 in its "American Classics" line. I last presented the dramatized song cycle on Sunday, May 24, 2015.