Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical #47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

Leonard Bernstein composed this opera about a dysfunctional marriage in utopian suburbia whilst on his honeymoon in 1951. No, he wasn’t predicting his future with his wife, but this is autobiographical. The story is really simple, a day in the life of a suburban family with parents bickering and avoiding and ignoring their son, who is Leonard Bernstein. He originally named the characters Sam and Jennie, his parents’ names, but changed Jennie to Dinah because apparently it was more singable. You can read a good background on Leonard Bernstein’s website, here. The Boston Lyric Opera also has a great writeup on Bernstein’s composition, here.

What I love about this opera is the free spirited nature of the composition, using light feathery jazz and Bernstein’s masterful offbeat rhythmic melodies. The sixth scene, which I link to below, is a great example of the fast flowing offbeat melody, and it has such a great energy to it. I wish there were more operas that went in this direction, mixing in jazz. I’m not as big of a fan of operas, in particular, that divert toward atonality, with Berg’s Wozzeck as a mild exception. That opera is not in my top 50 because I just don’t like that the female character is murdered. It detracts extremely from the good things Berg does with his work, which is masterfully crafted. 

The scene below is the sixth scene from the opera. Dinah sees a racist film called “Trouble in Tahiti” and takes some time to ruminate over the plot of the silly film. It’s her way of escaping from her frustrations of being a housewife and her relationship with Sam on the rocks. 

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.