TROUBLEfuturesongsSymphony Space (2537 Broadway, New York, NY) Map it $45
All it takes is a few notes to recognize that familiar, welcoming sound. Leonard Bernstein's music is an unmistakable mix of jazz, Broadway and classical, which is another way of saying it's nice to listen to. However, his Trouble in Tahiti is not a happy piece. The one-act opera is a day in the life of Dinah (Stephanie McGuire) and Sam (Isaac Grier), who have fallen out of love and argue as only opera couples do. After 45 minutes, Bernstein does not resolve their situation, instead, this 1951 work anticipates the changes in societal attitudes to come. Tahiti both embraces pop culture of that era with a Trio (Michelle Seipel, Miran Roberts, Luis Gonzalez) who act as a Broadway/Big Band Greek Chorus, and mocks it with a sitcom set-up. Lenny's fans will recognize the longing for a "garden" and "place" in Tahiti as themes he will explore further in Candide and "West Side Story. McGuire and Grier are truly well-matched.
The program also includes two miniature operas. Based on an episode from Ovid's Metamorphosis, Justine F. Chen's Voice for a Future Nightingale, is about sisterly love following Terus's (Brian Long) rape of his sister-in-law Philomel (Ms. McGuire). The opera ends with Procne (Ms. Seipel) receiving her sister's blood-stained tunic as evidence; a good place to finish because it creates scenarios not always rooted in Roman myth. Thomas Deneuville's Outerborough Songs is three connected vignettes for soprano and guitar. This sounds like another bad classical crossover, but the bold declarations of love sung by Gian-Carla Tisera and echoed by Marco Manno are more "opera" than "opera" itself. No hiding behind the music or convoluted plot here.