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Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, November 2001

It is the mark of first-class libretto when it is compelling even without music...casting is uniformly good.

Paul Rapoport
Fanfare, November 2001

the music and ideas have such strength that even the sound without the rest is worth a lot… © 2001 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Anthony Tommasini
The New York Times, June 2001

"This riveting, kaleidoscopic score can now be heard in a Dacapo recording, taken from the premiere performances in Copenhagen...The music is a triumph of stylistic pluralism...The lavish scoring deftly mingles electronic and standard instruments...From the opening moments, when sustained soft, misty, strangely astringent orchestral chords hover in the background while bits and pieces of themes in solo instruments struggle to break out, the music is haunting...But what gives it dramatic richness and rescues the story from Ms. Atwood's weighty symbolism is Mr. Ruders's use of musical parody...Mr. Ruders felt that The Handmaid's Tale was begging for operatic treatment. And in providing one, he freed the story from its sermonizing, something even a 1990 Natasha Richardson could not do."

Charles H. Parsons
American Record Guide, June 2001

"The recording is first-rate. Rorholm sings solidly, expressively, eliciting our deepest compassion. High marks go to Haugland [who has just died-Ed.] and Henning-Jensen for their strongly sung characterizations. The large cast is of consistent high quality... Schonwandt controls the immense forces with power and sensitivity."

American Record Guide, June 2001

"I suppose it is not a good thing for a reviewer to be at a loss for words-or at least to admit it. Yet that is exactly how I felt after first listening to The Handmaid's Tale. It is a profoundly disturbing, profoundly moving story-and now a profoundly disturbing, profoundly moving opera. By its effect on the listener the opera must be counted a success. The recording is first-rate. Rorholm sings solidly, expressively, eliciting our deepest compassions. High marks go to Haugland and Henning-Jensen for their strongly sung characterizations. The large cast is of consistent quality. Schonwandt controls the immense forces with power and sensitivity."

Raymond Tuttle
Classical Net, May 2001

"The engineering captures the fright and power in Ruder's music...There's no better way to be introduced to this provocative opera, short of a DVD, or seeing the actual performance, than this release."

Andrew McGregor
BBC Music Magazine, April 2001

"There was a real buzz about it in the press, and having listened to the recording I can hear why; the score does a brilliant job of reinforcing the darkness and intensity of this bleak vision of the future. You don't have to imagine the impact it had in the theatre, the recording puts you right there."

Peter Grahame Woolf
Music / Schirmer News, April 2001

"Importantly, the vocal lines are singable and the chilling story is easy to follow. Ruders deploys a huge modern orchestra with vivid imagination, and deploys his complex sound palette with great skill and unfailing interest. The performance and recording sounds exemplary---It is a parable for our times and a good contemporary opera for home listening."

David Murray
Compact Choice

"Dacapo's alacrity with Poul Ruders' new opera. The Handmaid's Tale, has been remarkable, and was surely fuelled by the whole-heartedly enthusiastic popular and critical reception of the piece when it was premiered in Copenhagen last March. The work is already scheduled at opera houses in several other capitals. To get anything like this amount of attention, a 'contemporary' opera has to be very good or very flashy. Rugers' opera is both. As a grim 'music-drama', at least, it is hughly effective; there are striking solos and ensembles too, but so closely geared to their moments in the drama that it's doubtful whether they could prosper as isolated 'Highlight from The Handmaid's Tale' on a single CD. No; what you need, if you­Ýre seriously interested, is the whole opera.The recorded version here is a well-edited composite from four of the original Royal Danish opera stage performances. It has live, gripping urgency, and the sound is terrific, as it had to be to capture Ruders' apocalyptic stretches - he uses a large orchestra with an exotic range of percussion and a lot of shattering fortissimi..."

Jed Distler
Schwann Inside

"In the restless, ever-changing world of modern opera, one seldom encounters a work whose musical, literary and dramatic components embody equal brilliance. Still more rarely does one find a work in which these components are unified into a sophisticated, grandly scaled and utterly gripping theatrical whole. The Handmaid's Tale is precisely this kind of work. Its bleakly futuristic storyline, astonishingly variegated orchestral palette and clear, vivid libretto seize your attention, provoke your sensibilities and engage rather than bait your emotions.

Above all, this is an opera whose dramatic form and musical sensibility emerge from the story and the characters' inner and outer needs, rather than a work whose style is set before the music is written. The Handmaid's Tale offers ample proof that opera remains a potent, viable and expressive medium as the 21st century finds its bearings."

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