- Desire Under The Elms, opera
American operas, no matter how you may define the term, are seldom recorded. Under such criteria, this Naxos recording of Edward Thomas' 1978 opera "Desire Under the Elms" is to be welcomed with open arms no matter how well it fares, as it fills a major gap in the recorded repertory of American opera. But you may ask, aside from that, how good is it? The opera itself is a real achievement -- Edward Thomas' music for the Eugene O'Neill drama (adapted by librettist Joe Masterhoff) is grand stuff; vibrant, beautiful, bold, and dramatic. Thomas supervised this recording, which features singers Jerry Hadley and James Morris, among others. The sessions were done at Abbey Road Studio in London. According to producer Thomas Shepard, all of the elements that went into the planning of this two-CD set were designed by Thomas with the intention to yield the best possible recording of "Desire under the Elms." So what went wrong? A couple of things -- the recording, despite being made at Abbey Road, is a bit dull and one-dimensional sounding. The other main problem is Hadley; while overall he doesn't sound bad in the key role of Eben, there are some high-pitched notes for the character in some key dramatic scenes, and Hadley just doesn't make it. These are momentary distractions, but they really grab your attention, and this hardly serves the purpose of the work. The situation with this recording of "Desire Under the Elms" is reminiscent of another important American opera recorded long ago, Dominick Argento's "Postcard from Morocco" -- a significant, probably great work in a recording that is generally enjoyable but flawed in ways that are hard to ignore.