Photo by: Steve DiBartolomeo
Not that there’s much of a tale, really. Instead, Bernstein’s 45-minute opus, set to his own libretto, gives us a snapshot of discontent, a single day in the increasingly estranged marriage of Sam and Dinah.
Sam goes to the office, where he sits behind a big wooden desk making phone calls and writing checks, and fancies himself a master of the universe because he wins a handball tournament at his gym. Dinah visits her analyst and goes to the movies. Neither says anything about the despair eating away at them.
Bernstein wrote “Trouble in Tahiti” in 1951, which gives it the feel of reportage, and the jazzy trio of radio singers who set the scene – like a Greek chorus of Andrews Sisters – is a dazzling touch. (Thirty years later, Bernstein would revisit the piece, embedding it as a central flashback in the more ambitious three-act opera “A Quiet Place.”)