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Bernstein, Leonard - Trouble in Tahiti
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Tom Cairns’ cinematic film features a young and vibrant cast in Bernstein's chamber opera. This biting satire on American suburban married life stars Stephanie Novacek as Dinah and Karl Daymond as Sam, facing a serious communication breakdown - he is obsessed with his work, she seeks escapism via the magical world of the latest movie release, Trouble in Tahiti. The score is a path-breaking fusion of lyric art with popular entertainment.
"Directed for video by Tom Cairns this DVD offers a lively revival of Bernstein's brilliant one-acter of 1952, a work that neatly spans the gap between opera and Broadway musical." (The Penguin Guide)
"The music is in Bernstein's richest vein: jazzy, melancholic and heart-warming all at once. Paul Daniel leads a lively performance..." (BBC Music Magazine)
"Wonderfully observed acting and singing performances by Karl Daymond and Stephanie Novacek in the leads. A gem." (The Sunday Times)
"Absolutely brilliant." (Opera)
"...miniature masterpiece... Tom Cairn's new film version brilliantly recreates an idealised post-war American suburbia." (The Independent)
Stephanie Novacek (Dinah)
Karl Daymond (Sam)
City of London Sinfonia; Paul Daniel
Stage Director: Tom Cairns
Choreographer: Amir Hosseinpour
Catalogue Number: OA0838D
Date of Performance: 2001
Running Time: 75 minutes
Sound: Dolby Surround; Dolby Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: FR, DE, ES
Label: Opus Arte
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And to the person that posted about the cut... no, I didn't realize anything was cut from this, that is disappointing. However, I still think the production is good and the story flows cohesively
The problems start at the beginning, when processing a bombardment of short video clips of 50s lifestyle and then quickly switching over to the inside of the little white house where the transition to singing is made clumsily, and the realization that the two main characters are singing never leaves you throughout the opera, which is a fatal flaw.
Many of the scenes are clumsy or not well-thought out. Cliché gestures are at a minimum, and each movement must have been well thought out, but the visual component does not lend to forward movement or suspense. It's just panning and zooming. Most duets are sung with one person on the screen and another off, which is frustrating as you'd like to see both.
A quick review of the scenes.
House scene is fair to poor, though the brief clip of the boy watching TV and hearing his parents argue worked well.
Office scene is one of the better ones: well choreographed, good interaction between Sam and the trio.
Psych's office is poor, with no action or any connection to the story Dinah is singing, and a couple confusing interruptions, one somehow vaguely related to the story, and the other a dizzy confrontation between Sam and the secretary, which leaves one more confused about whom Dinah is singing. I thought I had understood this scene after enjoying recordings of this opera and performing as Sam in an amateur production once, but now I was confused again.
Diner scene is poor. Why did they cut half the duet? Why? Why? Why? So much for climax. Just as I thought the scene was going somewhere, BOOM!, you're back with the trio again. A very unpleasant interruption.
The gym scene is likely the best. Well choreographed dancers with engaging actions, creative casting and gestures, and visual connection with the scene and Sam. However, I really didn't want to see all those butts in the shower. Maybe that's the reason this DVD is unrated...
The movie scene is the poorest. Dinah marches out of the movie theater at the beginning, which could have had potential for her to go shopping or hit the town like is written in the music score, but no: she spends the rest of the time singing drunk in her house. Terrible disconnect between action and music/storyline.
The final scene was going well, good connection between acting, scenery, storyline, and music, until both of them stopped lip-synching and the singing continued. Reminded, once again, of the fatal opera flaw: yes, they are singing.
Trouble in Tahiti was worth one watch, but will not be a DVD I return to. The CDs and my imagination will suffice just fine.
There are also two short talks about Bernstein, which are informative, and are good reminders about how great this small little opera really is.
If you're new to Trouble in Tahiti, get a CD version first, and if you like it well enough, you might consider buying this DVD.
So, now we await for a definitive production of this short opera. Perhaps next time it can be paired with another one-act American opera: Beeson's Hello Out There or William Schuman's A Question of Taste would both be good compliments, though both pale in comparison to Trouble in Tahiti's ingenuity. Or Theodore Chanler's Pot of Fat, which deals, in a lighter way, with trouble between husband and wife (cat and mouse).
As Dinah, Stephanie Novacek gives a blazing, almost terrifying performance of "What a movie!" - the effect not unlike having a gifted singer/storyteller encapsulate all of Elektra into 5 minutes - and managing to throw in a a "happy" ending! Positively chilling!
Karl Daymond's Sam is spot on. The gym scene "There are men" is spiked with hilarious homoeroticism (and nudity). While going through his calistehnics, the boys at the gym perform an elaborate, rhythmic, homoerotic gym routine in front, behind and all around an oblivious Sam. This "oblivious" quality speaks volumes about Sam's characters and he and Dinah's troubles.
Cairns uses a lot of symbolism and many interesting devices; flashback, video, home movies, television shows, product placements - all stylishly done and used to maximum effect. The overall feel for this viewer was similar to being "let in on the secret."
It's hard to believe Trouble in Tahiti is 50 years old!
Like many DVD's coming out lately, this short opera is padded out with some "extra" features definitely worth exploring.