Peter Boyer: Ellis Island: The Dream of America

Peter Boyer: Ellis Island: The Dream of America

by Peter Boyer
     
 

Peter Boyer's Ellis Island is a sort of musical docudrama, paying tribute to the experiences of American immigrants by using their own words, spoken here by seven stars of stage and screen. Boyer selected these texts -- the recollections of three men and four women who emigrated from various European countries between 1911 and 1940 -- from interviews collectedSee more details below

Overview

Peter Boyer's Ellis Island is a sort of musical docudrama, paying tribute to the experiences of American immigrants by using their own words, spoken here by seven stars of stage and screen. Boyer selected these texts -- the recollections of three men and four women who emigrated from various European countries between 1911 and 1940 -- from interviews collected by the Ellis Island Oral History Project, and he accompanies the dramatic monologues with an orchestral score that provides both subtle mood setting and vivid evocation. It comes as no surprise to learn that this young composer (born in 1970) has worked a great deal in the movies, for his music carries a distinct cinematic charge. It also seems indebted to touchstone figures in musical Americana like Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein; Boyer has learned well how to conjure sonic images of America's wide-open spaces and bustling cities. As for the seven first-person narratives, they relate diverse personal stories within familiar archetypes: escape from hard times, difficult sea crossings, and joy at arriving in New York. The two most memorable -- as stories and performances alike -- are also the most starkly contrasting: Bebe Neuwirth as a woman fleeing the Holocaust and Barry Bostwick's comic turn as a sly young Irishman. Boyer's music is nearly upstaged by some of the compelling narratives it frames, yet it adds the kind of emotional resonance that only music can provide, and the uplifting quality of the whole arises from the skilful way the two are woven together.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Peter Boyer's Ellis Island: The Dream of America will not surprise or disappoint anyone looking for a straightforward presentation piece in the American populist vein, à la Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait." Indeed, the music is so openly tonal, melodic, and richly orchestrated; the attitude so noble and patriotic; and the subject matter so emotionally compelling, it would be surprising and disappointing if Boyer had not followed Copland's example, and had set these authentic immigrant narratives from the Ellis Island Oral History Project in anything less than an accessible, American vernacular style. Yet it is the texts, not the music, which matter most in this work, and listeners will find the effective but expectedly epic score less absorbing than the absorbing performances by actors Blair Brown, Louis Zorich, Olympia Dukakis, Eli Wallach, Bebe Neuwirth, Barry Bostwick, and Anne Jackson, who deliver the historic accounts with believable characterizations and genuine emotions. Of course, any invocation of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty must include a recitation of Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus," which is passionately read at the work's conclusion by the cast against the stirring, anthemic accompaniment of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Naxos provides excellent sound, though it is fairly loud in places.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/17/2005
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943924624
catalogNumber:
8559246
Rank:
137256

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Tracks

  1. Ellis Island: The Dream of America, for narrators & orchestra  - Peter Boyer  -  New Philharmonia Orchestra  - Blair Brown  - Peter Boyer  - Martin Charnin  - Bebe Neuwirth  - Barry Bostwick  - Olympia Dukakis  - Anne Jackson  - Eli Wallach  - Louis Zorich

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