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.
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.