Search - Nancy Williams :: Bernstein Century - Bernstein: Trouble In Tahiti, Facsimile / Bernstein, New York Philharmonic

Bernstein Century - Bernstein: Trouble In Tahiti, Facsimile / Bernstein, New York Philharmonic
Nancy Williams
Bernstein Century - Bernstein: Trouble In Tahiti, Facsimile / Bernstein, New York Philharmonic
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1

An abiding ambition of Leonard Bernstein as composer was to write the Great American Opera. Indeed his own recordings of West Side Story and Candide in the last decade of his life, with their rosters of high-caliber sing...  more »

     
?

Larger Image
Listen to Samples

CD Details


Synopsis

Amazon.com
An abiding ambition of Leonard Bernstein as composer was to write the Great American Opera. Indeed his own recordings of West Side Story and Candide in the last decade of his life, with their rosters of high-caliber singers, were intended in part to display the larger, quasi-operatic scope of these works. And right from the start, Bernstein's savvy instinct was to create a musical language that would integrate lively vernacular American idioms, as his early one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti (1952) demonstrates. This biting satire--to the composer's own libretto--of a marriage falling to pieces against the backdrop of the vacuous suburban life promulgated by '50s advertisements is little more than a series of vignettes. But the compact score is exuberantly inventive and wide ranging, from its parody of AM radio jingles-cum-Greek chorus to its wistfully lyrical depiction of a faded love. In this reissue of a recording made in 1973, Bernstein emphasizes the jazzy, rhythmic swing of the former--with its fascinating anticipations of West Side Story--as well as the poignant oasis of yearning melody in Dinah's scene at the psychiatrist's office, which would serve as the kernel for his later full-length opera on the same characters, A Quiet Place. Nancy Williams brings to life a convincingly vulnerable Dinah, and Julian Patrick's bass-baritone booms with just the right attitude of defensive machismo in Sam's gym scene "There's a law." The disc also includes the short 1946 "choreographic essay" Facsimile. This is the composer in his "age of anxiety" mode; its hauntingly scored depiction of loneliness at the core makes an excellent companion piece. --Thomas May
 

CD Reviews

A fantastic recording of an unfortunately overlooked piece
path31783 | NJ | 01/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Leonard Bernstein was far more prolific than most people know; many think of him only in connection with West Side Story and On the Waterfront. Trouble in Tahiti, one of his earliest works, deserves a place among his better-known work. Although an opera, it never leans on recitative or pretentious bellowing. There is an amazing diversity in the score; one number is a swingy, scat-filled trio, another an aria of haunting beauty, another a hilarious evocation of escapist cinema. The liner notes excellently compare it with a Mahler symphony in the way it juxtaposes such different moods to such great effect. The libretto may seem to some a bit naive, but it is amazing to see the way Bernstein destroyed 1950's cliches of happy family life before they were even cliches! The cast is perfect: Julian Parick has the perfect resonant voice and arrogance; Nancy Williams switches from anger to wistful despair to high comedy with remarkable facility; and the trio is wonderful, especially the ethereal-voiced Antonia Butler. Facsimile, a "choreographic essay" on virtually the same subject (isolation and broken relationships) is truly an excellent companion. A great CD."
Wow! That's good!
Cory | Virginia | 05/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The title should speak for itself. I don't just give out 4s and 5s to most any CD. I expect much and I got much from this CD. This is one of the most passionate and moving pieces of music I have ever allowed to try the test of my ear and emotions. The vocalists are wonderful. The climax is a work of art. The finale to the first half of this work is tear jerking. The opera deals with a married couple who are in the pits of their marriage. And unlike many people today, this couple wants to fix the marriage. It was very clever how Bernstein had them go through the entire opera with just the two of them as characters. The jazz trio adds a lot to the mood, beginning, and 'intermission'. The opera was so great I spent so long on the internet trying to find the sequel, Quiet Place, which is on here but is sold out. I wrote the internet address of the company who has it in my review of the CD here since I just know you will love this music. I'm so attached to Trouble in Tahiti I have not even really listened to the other work on the CD."
A great find for anyone who loves Bernstein's musicals
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 10/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"By 1952 Leonard Bernstein had already finished a triumphant decade. His Sym. #1 had won the Pulitzer Prize, he had made a spectcular debut with the NY Phil., his ballet Fancy Free and the spin-off musical derived form it, On the Town, were smash hits. So the amazon reviewer isn't on the mark to call Trouble in Tahiti an early piece, nor is he right to say that Bernstein had a lifelong ambition to write the great American opera.

Trouble in Tahiti is jazzy and colloquial, its melodies and rhythms familiar to anyone who knows Bernstein's musc from the Forties, or the musical Wonderful Town that would follow it the next year. The work is operatic only in the sense that the voices of the two leads are more operatic than Broadway, but not by much. The trio that serves as Greek chorus sings in a parodistic pop style, half Andrews Sisters, half Manhattan Transfer.

The libretto is a bit embarrassing in its soap-opera simplicity, but in this case "dated" is a synonym for nostalgic--the score is full of tunes that evoke the immediate post-war period. The jazzy ballet filler, Facsimile, is just as winning. There was a classic performance in mono with Beverly Wolff in the lead that collectors prize, but this later stereo remake is almost as good. I've loved this minor work since I saw a college production in 1965 and return to it whenever I want to rekindle fond memories."