Entertainment » Theatre

Trouble In Tahiti/Arias And Barcarolles. Boston Lyric Opera

by Ed Tapper
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday May 14, 2018
Marcus DeLoach, Heather Johnson, Neal Ferreira, Mara Bonde and Vincent Turregano in Boston Lyric Opera's "Trouble In Tahiti/Arias And Barcarolles," playing thru May 20.
Marcus DeLoach, Heather Johnson, Neal Ferreira, Mara Bonde and Vincent Turregano in Boston Lyric Opera's "Trouble In Tahiti/Arias And Barcarolles," playing thru May 20.   

With countless musical organizations paying tribute to Leonard Bernstein on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the composer's music is virtually inescapable these days. To close its current season, Boston Lyric Opera is celebrating the Bernstein centenary with a production of the rarely-staged, one-act opera, "Trouble in Tahiti."

The nomadic company is covering the waterfront this time around, having selected the unusual venue of the Steriti Memorial Rink in Boston's North End in which to stage the work. Though "opera on ice" would certainly have been a novelty, the arena was appropriately de-iced for the occasion; and it proved a striking setting for BLO's vision of Lenny's operatic rarity.

A Boston-based revival of "Trouble in Tahiti" is apropos, since the work was premiered locally at Brandeis in 1952. Bernstein lavished great care and attention on this acerbic satire of complacent, American suburbia, one of his only stage works for which he wrote both the music and lyrics. With respect to the plot, the work pre-echoes Albee's play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" written a decade later. In both cases, a couple bickers throughout, occasionally mentioning a son who never materializes. However, Sam and Dinah, the two leads in Bernstein's opera, do not come close to equaling the marital dysfunction of Martha and George.

Although the music is eclectic, with some Jazz and pop influences, the basic style is that of contemporary opera, with a good deal of dissonance and melodic and rhythmic irregularity; so, don't expect the catchy tunes or rhapsodic stains of Bernstein's Broadway hits. In spite of its spiky style, the score does contain some moments of melodic invention in addition to a great deal of wit.


Heather Johnson, Neal Ferreira, Mara Bonde and Vincent Turregano in Boston Lyric Opera's "Trouble In Tahiti/Arias And Barcarolles," playing thru May 20.  

The creative team of David Schweizer and John Conklin did a remarkable job in completely transforming the hockey rink into a posh, 1950's nightclub, the backdrop of BLO's staging. A concession stand at the entrance to the "club" sold snacks and drinks that audiences enjoyed at small tables on the main floor during the opera. The musicians and soloists performed on an elevated stage, perfectly appointed in mid-century motifs.

The lively direction kept the work pulsing forward, with the chorus of three singers interacting with the soloists in the style of a period, lounge act. To round out the evening, Bernstein's "Arias and Barcarolles" was modified and tagged on as a lengthy coda to the 40-minute opera. The 1988 work is a song cycle for two voices, and, for this production, the songs were given to the characters of Sam and Dinah, acting as an epilogue to their marriage. Baritone Marcus Deloach and mezzo Heather Johnson sang and acted splendidly as the couple with a major communication problem. They were supported by a crackerjack team of chamber players under the direction of conductor David Angus.

BLO's Bernstein salute runs through May 20 and is guaranteed to transport you directly back to 1952. Modernists will have much more to anticipate in Boston Lyric Opera's upcoming season. In addition to Britten's "Rape of Lucretia," there will be a production of "The Handmaid's Tale," an opera based on the Margaret Atwood novel by the contemporary Danish composer Poul Ruders. To add to the roster, BLO has commissioned a new work from Tod Machover entitled "Schoenberg in Hollywood," slated to be premiered later this year. And, to appease traditionalists among its audiences, the company will kick things off with Rossini's indestructible comedy, "The Barber of Seville."

Remaining performances of Boston Lyric Opera's "'Trouble and Tahiti' and 'Arias & Barcarolles'" are May 16, 18, 19 and 20 at the DCR Steriti Memorial Rink, 561 Commercial Street, Boston, MA. For tickets and more information, visit the Boston Lyric Opera website.

Heather Johnson, Neal Ferreira, Mara Bonde and Vincent Turregano in Boston Lyric Opera's "Trouble In Tahiti/Arias And Barcarolles," playing thru May 20. Tickets www.BLO.org


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