The Wreckers ##BEST##
In 2005, Michelle Branch recruited her longtime friend and backing vocalist Jessica Harp on a new musical venture, incorporating elements from both Branch's pop-rock style and Harp's country style to form The Wreckers, a shortened form of "The Cass County Homewreckers," a band name idea from Branch's then husband, Teddy Landau. They were soon signed to Maverick Records.
Therefore, when looking for a suitable theme for her third opera, it is little wonder that Smyth's thoughts should turn to this dramatic, yet romantic subject. It was after a taking a walking tour in Cornwall in 1886 that the idea came to her and, for several years, Smyth visited places where shipwrecks were said to have been engineered and interviewing anyone with evidence or memories of the wreckers. Fuller quotes from Smyth's memoirs about the pull of the subject matter:
On their way to chapel, villagers are drinking outside the tavern. Pascoe, the lay preacher, arrives and chastises them for taking alcohol on the Sabbath. He declares that this is why the Lord has stopped sending them ships to plunder. Lawrence, the lighthouse keeper, has another explanation: he has seen beacons burning on the cliffs and is certain someone is warning ships of the danger. The villagers vow to find the traitor in their midst and destroy him.Mark, one of the younger fishermen, has been courting Avis, who is the daughter of the lighthouse keeper. His affections however, have now turned towards Thirza, the young wife of Pascoe. Unaware that Avis is spying on him, he serenades his new love while the other villagers are in the chapel, and to Avis's jealous fury it is clear that his amorous feelings for Thirza are fully returned.The villagers leave the chapel inspired by Pascoe's fiery sermon to commit further bloody acts of plunder. The preacher upbraids his wife for not attending the service, but Thirza retorts that she can no longer endure life in the village and the merciless ways of the wreckers.Pascoe is left alone with his thoughts. A storm is brewing and a ship is being drawn onto the rocks. Excitedly, the men of the village anticipate the rich pickings soon coming their way.To everyone's amazement Avis returns and denounces Pascoe as the traitor who has been warning the ships of danger. The men agree to keep a close watch on the preacher as they begin their preparations for the grim work ahead.
Eventually, with the onset of railroads, and improvements in navigational aids, shipwrecks came fewer and farther between. In 1921, the wrecking courts were closed, ending an era that had made Key West one of the richest cities in America. Today, you can relive the era of the wreckers at our historical Museum in Key West.
Regularly patrolling the reef line in search of ships in peril, wreckers were the first responders of their day. Though wreckers have been historically remembered as little better than pirates, it was a few bad apples that would be responsible for souring their reputation. Among these bad apples was the notorious wrecker king of Indian Key, John Jacob Housman.
Piper\u2019s Hole left such an impression that twenty years later it became the setting for the opera\u2019s climax. The two lovers, Mark and Thirza, are chained to the rocks and left to drown in a cave filled by the rising tide. But it wasn\u2019t just the cave that provided a source for The Wreckers. Smyth combined a number of Cornish stories and legends about lawless wreckers \u2014 people who took valuables from shipwrecks \u2014 to make up the opera\u2019s plot.
It took months of wrangling, through 1902 to 1904, to end up with the final form of the opera we have now. Smyth had a flair for the melodramatic \u2014 Brewster often had to clamp down on her love of dramatic clich\u00E9s. He was not especially musical, so Smyth needed to guide him towards writing words that would work operatically as well as dramatically. But eventually they emerged with an opera of searing power. Most surprising about it, in some ways, is that there is no moral judgement of the characters. All of them subvert social norms. The wreckers claim to kill in God\u2019s name, and it\u2019s a pastor who leads the shipwrecking. Mark betrays his community, Thirza betrays her husband. But everybody in The Wreckers believes they are doing the right thing, and the opera tries to show all their actions without condemnation. When the opera premiered, critics were shocked that a woman would set a story of such \u2018exceptionally nasty character\u2019, particularly objecting to the insinuation that the church is complicit in the wrecking.
The wreckers were once again deployed to liberate the Garrus-9 prison complex from the control of the Renegade Decepticon Overlord. It became one of their most famous deployments, but also one of their most costly. It became known as The Wreckers' Last stand. Last Stand of the Wreckers