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A Flowering Tree

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 23, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

The performances on this 2 disc set, which includes extensive liner notes and the complete libretto, were recorded at the Barbican Center, London, in August 2007, with the London Symphony Orchestra and the same vocalists who performed in Vienna.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Scene 1
  2. Scene 2
  3. Scene 3

Disc: 2

  1. Scene 4
  2. Scene 5
  3. Scene 6


Product Details

  • Performer: Eric Owens, Jessica Rivera, Russell Thomas, Schola Cantorum de Venezuela
  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: John Adams
  • Composer: John Adams
  • Audio CD (September 23, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0017PCXQ6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,137 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was very excited to see this CD was finally available, and I jumped on it. I'm happy to say that I'm not disappointed. Adam's writing is both energetic and gorgeous, as ever. An equal to "El Nino", easily. Superior to "Klinghoffer" and (if it even needs to be said) the stumble that "I Was Looking At The Ceiling..." turned out to be. Nothing tops "Nixon", of course, but that opera is stylistically somewhat different from Adam's current style. I have yet to hear "Doctor Atomic" so I can't compare it.

The performance is excellent as well. The singers are well matched to the material and the playing is phenomenal, as is the mix and master of the CD itself.

I have to confirm the booklet issue, but I have to say it doesn't really bother me. I'm not really a follow-the-libretto kind of opera listener. It's in English, anyhow. From a consumer perspective I would hope they would have some sort of mail-in exchange option, though, once they get it sorted out.

If you're a John Adams fan, this is a must-have, in my opinion.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I went to the Nonesuch website, contacted them as indicated on the site, explained the problem, and within a few days received a courteous e-mail apologizing for the misprinted booklet and explaining that they were reprinting the booklet correctly. A few weeks later I reveived the reprinted booklet, free of errors and free of charge. I hope that those who downgraded this release will go to the [...] website and write a courteous request for the reprinted booklet. As for why others got no reply to their complaints, all I can assume is that they did not go directly to the source on the Nonesuch site.

By the way, I think this opera is yet another masterpiece from one of American's finest living composers. Adams is perhaps our finest composer overall, given the variety and depth (both intellectual and emotional) of his works as well as their appeal to the human ears. Certainly the many performances of his works all over the world suggest that he is. Only in the USA are his compositions relatively rarely performed. Now that the MET has finally, after all these years, recognized him with "Dr. Atomic" and plans a production of "Nixon in China", perhaps we will get to hear and see more of his works in concert halls and opera houses.

I highly recommend his recent autobiography,Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life and the informative The John Adams Reader: Essential Writings on an American Composer.
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Format: Audio CD
The shimmering beauty of the music, the magical Tamil tale of transformative love vs. adversity, and the exceptional performances all make John Adams' opera/oratorio "A Flowering Tree" one of his best releases yet.

A flood of antipodal cultural references washes through the music. Adams' minimalist upbringing barely shows. To create some tonal exoticism, most of Act I seems to be in a medieval mixolydian mode (a scale sounding like G to G on the piano's white keys). The melodic lines are more emotive, the orchestration more transparent, the style positivistic in evoking the sound of previous composers.

The opening notes are transporting. Taking Wagner's woodbird music accompaniment from Siegfried and pasting on it a low melody in a peculiar doubling, Adams conjures up the Sibelius of the Sixth Symphony. Later, in highly accented, simply phrased, fortissimo choral passages, the shade of Carl Orff Carmina-izes. During the wedding music, slashing strings typical of the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara are heard. At the beginning of Act II, blatantly Wagnerian horn phrases burst out. Yet all these Western and Nordic references are carefully immersed in genetic Adams: No harm, no postmodern foul.

At times in other works, Adams emotive self is so standoffish you want to shake him. Not so here. Along with "My Father Knew Charles Ives," "Nixon in China," and, yes, "Ceiling ... Sky," this is my favorite Adams so far.
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Format: Audio CD
This opera is adapted from an Indian folktale and poetry translated by A.K. Ramanujan. This folktale is in the Hindu tradition and thus we are not surprised Shiva is invoked, in his male personification. In the same way we cannot be surprised by the transmigration from a woman to a flowering tree and vice versa. In the same way we have a girl from a poor family reduced to the mother and two daughters. On the other hand we have a king and his son, the Prince, and two daughters, the Prince's sisters of course. Of the two couples of sisters it is in the case of the poor sisters the younger one who plays the main part, a good one, and on the side of the two royal sisters it is the elder one who plays the main part, a bad one.

Then a triple pattern is present everywhere: the mother and her two daughters, the Prince and his two sisters, the Prince, the elder daughter of the poor woman, Kumudha, and his elder sister. We can note the Prince and his elder sister do not have names. Only Kumudha has a name. Kumudha, the object of the love of the prince and of the hatred of his sister, is the center of the tale, the character around which the whole tale revolves. And Kumudha is the one who invokes Shiva in his male identity:

Kumudha's prayer
"Shiva, you have no mercy.
Shiva, you have no heart.
Why did you bring me to birth,
Wretch in this world, exile from the other?
Tell me, Lord,
Don't you have one more
Little tree
Made just for me?"

This cannot be understood if you do not accept the principle of transmigration of the soul of an individual from one item to another, and these items can range from an inert object to a human being, and even to some devil, good deity or final salvation.
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