Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trouble in Tahiti

TROUBLE IN TAHITI, with words and music by Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein is noted for his wonderful musical scores. To the surprise of some, he did pen lyrics. TROUBLE IN TAHITI is a Bernstein one-act opera, with both words and music by the great one.

The story depicts the life of one couple, Dinah and Sam, in their attempt to cope with different points of view as they live life in the suburbs. The area might well be Levittown, the mid-nineteenth century mass-produced suburb, which was the rage about the time that Bernstein wrote the piece.

The 1952 work, which runs about 45 minutes, is filled with musical themes that give hints of Bernstein works including WEST SIDE STORY, ON THE TOWN, WONDERFUL TOWN and CANDIDE. The piece was later incorporated into Bernstein’s 1983 opera, A QUIET PLACE.

The young Bernstein tried to make TROUBLE IN TAHITI as real as possible. He stated that he wanted everything to be believable. The language is everyday speech, set to a typical American cadence and syncopation, almost a slurred quality.

The script harks of realism. It appears to be a snapshot in time of Bernstein and his wife, Felicia Monteleagre.

The story centers on one day in the life of a couple who appear to be unhappy. Nothing much happens plot wise, so at the end of the production, the duo is at the same crossroads as at the beginning.

THE PHILANDERER George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The test of a man or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel.” Sam and Dinah fight civilly, in control, and with little effect. Their breeding shows, but their styles don’t help them solve their issues.

Shaw’s production showcases Bernstein’s script. Nothing much shines, nothing much falters. The music sounds a little shallow as played by the five piece orchestra, the singing is adequate, the vocal projection sometimes makes hearing a little difficult.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Bernstein’s TROUBLE IN TAHITI is one of those scripts that is pleasing to watch and listen to as it is being seen, but quickly evaporates from memory.