The title piece is a series of songs (Of which the texts are all written by various contemporary poets) that are the classic fairy-tales re-imagined with a woman’s point-of-view. The work is bracketed by 2 shorter works–This Thirst In My Lungs, a set of poems by contemporary author Robin Myers, and a 4-part love story constructed from poems by early 20th century author Sara Teasdale (Sara Teasdale Songs)
Among the title piece’s best moments is “The Mermaid Story” where the often-depressing Hans Christian Anderson tale is finally shown for what it really is–A woman having given so much of herself and ending up as a shell of what she once was, all for a man.
The most stand-out moment for me is “Hazel Tells Laverne” told by the “princess” in the Grimm tale “The Frog Prince”, but she tells it in the persona of a gossipy cleaning lady (with what lyrically looks like the grammatical style of Porgy and Bess) recalling the events of the story to her friend Laverne. In this version the would-be-princess has a more realistic reaction to the frog, rejecting him outright and calling him a pervert for wanting to kiss her. Soprano Gillian Hollis reaches perhaps the highest note of her range that doesn’t attract dogs on the word “screams”.
The cycle’s closer “kinder und hausmarchen” (The original German title of the Brothers’ Grimm tales) seems to sum the piece up well with the Grandmother of Red Riding Hood surviving her ordeal and symbolizing a re-conceived life.
Composer Dale Trumbore is also the recording’s pianist, and quite beautifully brings out the orchestration of the pieces. Soprano Hollis handles the vocals with great clarity and character, and is a very good fit for the range of Trumbore’s practices in these works. Their performances on this recording are a standard for recital repertoire.