Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) - Trouble in Tahiti

Recorded live on18th March 2010. Duration 46 minutes

opera in one act - seven scenes
libretto by the composer
UK premiere of reduced orchestration by Garth Sunderland

Trouble in Tahiti is a brilliant pastiche of pop music and melodrama, showing Leonard Bernstein at his most bitingly ironic, and yet, at the same time, most personal and sincere. Ranging from the jingle-like crooning of the vocal trio to major, show-stopping serio-comic arias for the main characters Sam and Dinah, the music pulls out every pop-cultural 1950s stop, while never losing sight of the genuine pathos of its characters: a couple in a troubled marriage, desperate to find the way back to that 'Quiet Place' of their love for one another.

The reduced orchestration - behind the scenes
A 45-minute, one-act opera, with a small cast of five and minimal staging requirements, Trouble in Tahiti - composed in 1952 - is ideal for intimate venues and small companies. But a tricky obstacle has always been its orchestra - a bare minimum of 26 players (assuming only a string quintet rather than the preferred full string sections).

In creating this new orchestration, writes Garth Sunderland, I wanted to remain faithful to Bernstein's original intentions and the reduction takes a 'one of each' chamber orchestra approach, with a 15 piece instrumentation. While this orchestration, premiered in 2009, cannot be a true substitute for Bernstein's brilliant original, I hope that it might allow more performers and audiences the chance to experience this hilarious, exuberant melancholy opera.

Trouble in Tahiti - a snapshot
The trio croons about the bliss of suburban life as an introduction to Sam's and Dinah's angry breakfast conversation. We then see Sam engaging in questionable dealings at work while Dinah tells her (unseen) psychiatrist of her frustration with her life and her longing to escape to a dream garden, a quiet place. She and Sam accidentally meet on the street and (to their brief regret) avoid lunching together on the pretext of having prior engagements. That afternoon Sam gloats about a handball triumph while Dinah goes to see a film; they both miss their son's school play. Later they try to discuss their problems but give up and go to a film instead - the same escapist fantasy of glamorous exotic love that Dinah had seen earlier in the day, Trouble in Tahiti. The opera was later incorporated in its entirety by Bernstein into the second act of his sequel opera, A Quiet Place (1983/4).

Garth Sunderland is a composer and interdisciplinary artist. He is Artistic Director of the Lost Dog New Music Ensemble, and Music Editor for the Leonard Bernstein Office.

Catherine Hopper Dinah
Dean Robinson Sam
Jane Harrington soprano
Ashley Catling tenor
Quentin Hayes baritone

Nicholas Kok conductor

Elaine Tyler-Hall director
Aaron Marsden designer
Marc Rosette lighting designer

Conrad Marshall flute/piccolo
Rachael Clegg oboe/cor anglais
Dov Goldberg clarinet/bass clarinet
Ben Hudson bassoon/conta bassoon
Rebecca Goldberg french horn
Tracey Redfern trumpet
Phil Goodwin trombone
Richard Casey piano
Tim Williams percussion
Ben Gray kit
David Routledge violin 1
Rebecca Thompson violin 2
David Aspin viola
Jennifer Langridge cello
Daniel Whibley double bass

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