An Operatic Pairing About Troubled Relationships

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Renée Rapier and Eugene Brancoveaunu are a bickering husband and wife in Leonard Bernstein's 'Trouble in Tahiti' in a new Opera Parallèle producton (Photo: Steve Di Bartolomeo/Westside Studio Images)

Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ are teaming up to present a concert celebrating Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday -- one of dozens of Bernstein birthday concerts we've enjoyed in the Bay Area since last fall. The two companies are presenting the one act opera Trouble in Tahiti from 1952, for which Bernstein wrote both the score and libretto. Centered on the allure and despair of suburban life, Trouble also features orchestrations and motifs that would come to life years later in West Side Story.

Rene Rapier in ‘At the Statue of Venus‘ a new production from Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ
Rene Rapier in ‘At the Statue of Venus‘ a new production from Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ (Photo: Steve Di Bartolomeo/Westside Studio Images)

Bernstein began composing it on his honeymoon, yet the musical opens with a married couple bickering. It's likely based on the the marriage of Bernstein's parents, but it also foreshadowed the trouble to come in his marriage to Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre. 

The companies are pairing Trouble with At the Statue of Venus, by San Francisco composer Jake Heggie and his Dead Man Walking librettist and playwright Terence McNally. Venus features a really long scene for piano and soprano in which an attractive, middle-aged woman waits in a museum by a statue of the Goddess of Love for a blind date. Opera Parallèle's Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel says he sees a narrative that connects both works in which the woman from At the Statue of Venus becomes the wife, Dinah, in Trouble in Tahiti

Don't look for happy endings, but do expect terrific music. Details on these concerts at SFJAZZ's Miner Hall Feb. 14-18 are here.}