Reviews

Enemies, A Love Story
World premiere opera, February 20, 21 and 22, 2015
Palm Beach Opera

WQXR/Operavore (Fred Plotkin, February 23, 2015)

“The news is that a resurgent opera company has produced an important new work that will find its place among those works that audiences will be moved by…

The libretto, by Nahma Sandrow, is one of the most effective texts I have encountered in a long time and it has been set to music by the excellent Ben Moore. The score is melodic and atmospheric while at the same time being emotional and specific in depicting all of [the] nuanced turns in the plot…

I am convinced that this production, with its sets perfectly geared to play in other theaters, may find itself staged at numerous opera companies in America and abroad.”

Opera News (Karl W. Hesser, April 2015)

“Composer Moore, known for beautiful song-settings, devoted his melodic gifts to an immediately accessible score.  The words emerge clearly (the projected texts are hardly needed except in ensembles) against a colorful, sensitive orchestration. Each of the three women in Herman's life has a musically distinctive language…The trio at the beginning of act II is particularly impressive, becoming an elegy for Holocaust victims.”

MusicalAmerica.com (John Fleming, February 25, 2015)

“This is the first opera by Moore, an American best known for his art songs, which have been performed and recorded by the likes of Deborah Voigt, Lawrence Brownlee, and Susan Graham. His penchant for melody serves him well… When Herman and Tamara are reunited in Act 1, her aria is both agonizing and beautiful, with long, soaring lines about the deaths of their two children…

The scenes with Herman and Masha are the most powerful, especially the love duet, which ranges from sublime comedy (while she sings an ode to food, what’s on his mind is the philosophical nature of time) to down‐and‐dirty sex on the kitchen table of her Bronx apartment.

Pastin’s performance of “My Love Remembers” was sensational - both pulpy in the style of a verismo aria updated to the 20th century and ravishingly romantic. The aria ultimately veers into the horror of the Holocaust: “We sang it in the camps. It kept our minds off the ovens.” She was like a death‐haunted angel with a number tattooed on her arm…”

The Wall Street Journal (Heidi Waleson, February 23, 2015)

“Set to a deft libretto by Nahma Sandrow, Mr. Moore’s music is unabashedly tonal and accessible. Hints of operetta, American musicals and a little Leonard Bernstein coexist with soaring Puccinian lines, folk tunes and klezmer melodies. He writes idiomatically and lyrically for voice, and each of the women is acutely characterized and impeccably performed…

Enemies is the first world premiere in Palm Beach Opera’s 54‐year history, and the company, under Artistic Director Daniel Biaggi, did itself proud with this ambitious, $1.2 million staging.”

Edge Media Network (Jack Gardner, February 22, 2015)

“Moore has crafted a beautiful piece. His music is sweeping with lush melodies and complex harmonies that are never jarring and always underscore the emotion of the piece…

“Tamara's Aria” in Act One… is a piece that is likely to become a permanent part in the dramatic soprano/mezzo-soprano repertory alongside the “To This We've Come” from Menotti's “The Consul” and “La Mamma Morta” from Giordano's “Andrea Chenier.” In some ways, this aria is so perfect and dramatically moving that, much like the aforementioned Menotti aria, it almost overwhelms the rest of the opera. The next major aria in the opera is “Yadwiga's Aria” which is another brilliant piece of writing although, this time, for a more lyrical soprano voice. Moore knows how to write beautifully for the female voice…

“Enemies: A Love Story” has a high likelihood of remaining in the operatic canon for a long time to come…

Premiering new works is always a risky proposition both for the company presenting the work and the audience attending the performances. You never know exactly what you're going to get. In this instance, Palm Beach Opera got an unquestionable hit and the first night audience received a vocally and musically beautiful, emotionally moving performance.”

Fort Worth Recital, October 2013 (Deborah Voigt / Brian Zeger)

The Dallas Morning News (Scott Cantrell, October, 2013)

“The revelations were four exquisite songs by Ben Moore (born in 1960) to poems by Elizabeth Bishop, James Joyce and Robert Herrick. Finely crafted piano parts variously suggested Schumann, Rachmaninoff and Bernstein.”

Zankel Hall Recital, April 2013 (Nathan Gunn / Julie Gunn)

The New York Times (Steve Smith, April 2013)

“Mr. Gunn established a wistful, relaxed tone straightaway with two selections by Ben Moore, an American songwriter with a knack for matching texts to lyrically generous, harmonically rich music. Settings of Yeats and Joyce proved a handsome showcase for Mr. Gunn’s velvet sound and clear diction; Ms. Gunn’s arrangements balanced piano and string quartet deftly.”

Zankel Hall Recital, March 2013 (Lawrence Brownlee / Martin Katz)

Opera News (Joshua Rosenblum, June 2013)

“Ben Moore's four songs were thoughtful, nostalgically tonal and sensitive to the well-chosen texts by Yeats and Joyce. Moore is unafraid of opulent, vocally sympathetic melodic sweetness, and it's easy to see why singers such as Deborah Voigt and Susan Graham have embraced his work. The best of this set was "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," with its haunting refrain that winds wistfully upward throughout the piano interludes.”

The New York Times (Vivien Schweitzer, April 2013)

“The English lineup also included four gorgeously lyrical songs by Ben Moore, part of a collection published in 2006. These selections, set to poems by Yeats and Joyce, included a passionate rendition of “I Would in That Sweet Bosom Be,” the vocal line blending with a richly textured accompaniment.” 

Ben Moore — 14 Songs

Classical Singer Magazine (Caleb Harris, May 2007)

“If you are a lover of traditional art song and are always searching for repertoire selections that are highly melodic, and clearly written with the voice in mind, you can find a breath of fresh air in the settings included in this volume of 14 songs by composer Ben Moore… If you are interested in performing works that have yet to reach a wide market but are sure to be well-received in the concert hall, at your senior voice recital, or at your family reunion, rest assured that these fine settings by Ben Moore will please the palette and leave your audience wanting more.”

All My Heart (Deborah Voigt / Brian Zeger, EMI CD)

Fanfare Magazine (James H. North, January 2006)

“Moore finds just the right note and dynamic for every vowel, and he writes illuminating, sometimes complex accompaniments, capturing the spirit of each poem. Voigt and pianist Brian Zeger seem thoroughly at home with Moore’s songs, throwing themselves into the music with more abandon as they progress through the set of eight, whose order has been well chosen. One suddenly feels that the Moore songs are the true focus of the disc.”

Opera News (F. Paul Driscoll and Oussama Zahr) (January 2006)

The Best of the Year “a disarming program of American Songs”

Opera News (Brian Kellow, December 2005)

“All My Heart is Deborah Voigt’s tribute to American composers- Charles Ives, Amy Beach, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Griffes and the talented Ben Moore, best known for writing effective comic numbers for the recital appearances of Voigt, Susan Graham and others… She (Voigt) is most effective in Moore’s lyrical, keenly nuanced selections.”

Opera News (Judith Malafronte, November 2005)

“Eight songs by Ben Moore form the centerpiece of the disc, and their easy tunefulness and effective setting offer Voigt plenty of emotional range…she understands perfectly the romantic sweep and dark urgency of Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘I am in need of music,’ the gently lyrical ‘In the dark pine-wood’ (from James Joyce’s Chamber Music) and the richly internalized imagery of Moore’s restrained setting of Keats’ ‘Darkling I listen’… a heartfelt and richly communicative recital.”

Pittsburg Post-Gazette (Robert Croan, senior editor) (September 22, 2005)

“In this impressive recital of American art songs, Deborah Voigt traverses classics…plus a more recent group by 45-year-old Ben Moore, who has become a favorite among opera luminaries looking for new repertory… It is Moore’s lovely songs that most spark the singer’s imagination, and provide this collection’s most rewarding moments. His individual treatment of ‘Gather ye rosebuds,’ for example, or his pungent music for ‘The Ivy-Wife,’ typify his serious text-setting, his wit and an old-fashioned melodic invention seasoned by the irreverence of Broadway.”

Akron Beacon Journal (Elaine Guregian, Sep. 25, 2005)

“Variants on the ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may’ theme urging the listener to give in to his/her raging hormones are rampant in pop music. For one of the eight song settings by Ben Moore on this disc, the composer actually goes back to the source. Robert Herrick’s poem titled To the Virgins to Make Much of Time. It’s presented here in a collection of other songs set to such estimable authors as Thomas Hardy, William Butler Yeats and James Joyce. Moore (born 1960) sets the poetic language in poignantly lovely writing that is a natural descendant of that heart-on-sleeve melodist Leonard Bernstein… It’s significant, and gratifying, that Voigt hasn’t just grabbed the big Wagner and Strauss roles and run, leaving more recent music (by Americans, yet!) on its own. The Ben Moore songs are wonderfully intelligent and clever, never self-consciously intellectual.”

Opera Today (Barbara Miller, September 19, 2005)

“At the heart of the program is a fine set of art songs by the contemporary composer Ben Moore, who has composed several musical shows and cabaret pieces as well as humorous encore pieces for classical singers. While the songs earlier in the program evoked childhood, in many of Moore’s songs we see the dilemmas of people coming to terms with romantic love and the choices it invites them to make. These songs are all melodic, with interesting and singable texts, and harmonies and accompaniments that reinforce the poetry. It is fortunate that such talented artists have chosen to devote at least half of the recording to Moore’s songs, since they deserve to be heard. A particularly memorable song at first hearing is the setting of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Ivy Wife,’ which deflates the Victorian metaphor of the wife as clinging vine, faithful to the strong tree who is her husband. In a setting of great energy which eschews the delicacy and gentleness associated with that image, we hear a woman on a mission, telling us of how she set out to find the man whom she could cling to and eventually completely contain, and of the resultant destruction to them both.”

Tanglewood Recital July, 2005

Berkshire Eagle (Andrew Pincus, July 14, 2005)

“[Moore] writes in a conservative tonal style that ought to be a throwback, but isn’t. The text setting of these thrice-told poems is so sure that it yields a constant sense of discovery.”

Carnegie Hall Recital, April 2004

Opera News (William V. Madison, 2004)

“…five perfectly chosen songs by Charles Ives and four by Ben Moore… Perhaps most impressive were his [Zeger’s] accounts of Moore’s songs, in which he located an ingratiating melodic gift.”

Wall Street Journal (Barrymore Laurence Scherer)

“Ives couldn’t have wished for a more versatile performer of [his] songs…nor could Ben Moore, a composer who sets the classic poetry of Joyce, Herrick, Keats and Hardy with insightful craftsmanship.”

The New York Sun (Jay Nordlinger, April 12, 2004)

“The program was well chosen, and superbly executed… Hosannas to Mr. Moore for having the confidence to write beautiful, tonal, ‘old-fashioned’ art songs…moving on to her Ben Moore novelty song, ‘Wagner Roles.’ Oh, what a wonderful song it is!”