Trouble in Tahiti

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A full-length Leonard Bernstein opera of nearly 30 years ago is about to have its long-awaited New York premiere. It has WNYC’s Sara Fishko considering “Trouble in Tahiti,” the smaller opera inside it. Here is the next Fishko Files...

A clip from Tom Cairns' film adaptation of Trouble in Tahiti.



"I don't think Trouble in Tahiti had enough influence. I wish that things had followed more in that directon. I think a lot of the American operas came along a few years later, as wonderful as some of them are, were in a much more traditional cast in terms of the way they were structured. They weren't trying to get at this idea of opera in the vernacular. It was a much more formal setting in many of those cases. I don't think Trouble in Tahiti had a great influence on what came after. And one of the things I think is sad about that is that, on a larger scale, I don't think we learned what we needed to learn from Lenny Bernstein."

-Brian Kellow is the Features Editor of Opera News.



"Bernstein started it in 1951 when he was on a sabbatical from different orchestras at the time, and he was in Cuernavaca in Mexico. And the first draft of it had the names of the protagonists' husband and wife. And the others were hairdresser, psychiatrist -- it wasn't specific names. The next draft had the husband and wife become Sam and Jenny. Sam and Jenny were the names of his parents. The others acquired names, too, but they never appear in the operetta. Even from the very first, they were sort of either seen in the imagination of the audience or they were being addressed, let's say, to the empty air. But Bill became a buddy. Susie, a friend of Dinah, the wife, that sort of thing. In 1952, when he married Felicia Montealegre, they went on their honeymoon in the same place, in Cuernavaca. That was when he was able during the honeymoon period, which stretched out several months, to complete the work. I believe, in the first instance, that he was letting out, casting out, some of the demons that he experienced with his parents -- especially his father."

-Jack Gottlieb worked for many years with Bernstein, who died 20 years ago this week. Gottlieb's book Working with Bernstein details his time as Bernstein's assistant. 


“A Quiet Place” opens in New York for the first time ever, at New York City Opera on October 27th. Visit the New York City Opera's website for more information.


    Music in this edition of the Fishko Files

    1. Leonard Bernstein, Trouble in Tahiti. Soloists with the Columbia Wind Ensemble, under Leonard Bernstein. Sony 60969.
    2. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Wadsworth, A Quiet Place. Soloists with the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra, under Leonard Bernstein. DG 419761.


    Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister

    Assistant Producer: Laura Mayer

    WNYC Newsroom Editor: Karen Frillmann