Monday, February 16, 2009

WOODLAND

This is another one of those lost masterpieces like THE PRINCE OF PILSEN -- and comes from the same creative team of Gustav Luder and Frank Pixley. A "forest fantasy", WOODLAND (1904) is loosely based on "The Birds" by Aristophanes and is true to the source material only in the sense that the players (all of them in this, unlike just most of them in the Greek original) are birds.

Although I havent been able to track down a copy of the libretto, the list of characters makes it pretty clear that this was a satire of some kind: there are birds representing Justice and Politics and Town Gossips and the Church. It was quite the hit, with a rave review in the New York Times, which seemed especially enamoured with the music (For those interested, you can hear the songs in midi configurations at Colin Johnson's incomparable site: www.halhkmusic.com/woodland.html) and the physical production.

The sad thing about works such as WOODLAND (and PRINCE OF PILSEN, for that matter) is that so little exists about the shows beyond the vocal scores. The scripts have all but disappeared, save for a very few tantalizing clues: PILSEN, at the very least, left behind a footprint that allows for a decent reconstruction, but WOODLAND might as well never have existed, for all the information one can find. And given what a joy the score is, that's a real shame. I have little doubt that the libretto was a string of facile jokes, but it would be fascinating to see what strung together the gems that make up the score.

Still, just finding the score was a bit of a coup: there are only a few copies out there, from what I can see, and most seem incomplete -- my own copy stops at 178, which means I'm missing the last eight pages.

But it's the mystery of the thing that tantalizes me. If anyone knows anything about this eccentric work, please, please let me know.

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