Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hand of Bridge / Trouble in Tahiti

Sunday afternoon I attended the last of 3 performances by Opera Parallèle of Barber's Hand of Bridge & Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. The Z Space venue does not have a pit, so the 16-member orchestra was arrayed along the right side of the performing space. The action took place on a rotating set containing all the locations. There were 3 screens for video projections. As latecomers were seated, the orchestra's pianist played an Erik Satie Gymnopédie, & the characters of Hand of Bridge arrived for their game. Hand of Bridge ran barely 10 minutes & established the social setting for Trouble in Tahiti, which followed without a break.

Bernstein's critique of the disappointing banality of suburban life might be dated, but I liked his music, & Brian Staufenbiel's staging satirically played up the 1950s. The Trio, who function as chorus, are commercial jingle singers, grouped around a radio microphone. The wife Dinah wears pearls & a pink chiffon dress. Projections show post-war advertisements for kitchen appliances & cigarettes. The husband Sam smokes a cigarette while doing curls at the gym. Dinah's frantic "What a movie!" is accompanied by a hilariously campy Trouble in Tahiti film, featuring the opera's performers. It's replete with opening credits, special effects, natives in coconut shell bras, & a live cameo by conductor Nicole Paiement, all of it tightly sychronized to the aria.

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu looked the part of a chauvinistic business man, & his singing was open, effortlessly powerful, & plush. Mezzo Lisa Chavez sounded strong & sterling & was a sympathetic Dinah. Both singers made the text intelligible. Their duet in the middle of the opera, set in the rain, was impassioned & sad. The Trio singers swung lightly. Soprano Krista Wigle's singing was clear & beaming. Tenor Andres Rarmirez has a light, pleasing voice that fit his character's romantic daydreaming in Hand of Bridge.

Opera Parallele photo TroubleInTahitiEncore_zpsc678f84c.jpgThe event was short, lasting around an hour. The bar was open after the performance, &, for those who stayed, the singers repeated Hand of Bridge from a catwalk above the lobby & tossed their playing cards down on the audience at the conclusion.

§ Opera Parallèle Double Bill

Hand of Bridge (1953)
Music by Samuel Barber/Text by Gian Carlo Menotti

Trouble in Tahiti (1952)
Music and Text by Leonard Bernstein

GERALDINE (Hand of Bridge) and DINAH (Tahiti): Lisa Chavez
DAVID (Hand of Bridge) and SAM (Tahiti): Eugene Brancoveanu
SALLY (Hand of Bridge) and TRIO (Tahiti): Krista Wigle
BILL (Hand of Bridge) and TRIO (Tahiti): Andres Ramirez
TRIO (Tahiti): Randall Bunnell

Creative Team
Nicole Paiement: Conductor/artistic Director
Brian Staufenbiel: Concept & Stage Director
David Dunning: Lighting Designer
David Murakami, Sam Clevenger, Tal Kamran: Video/Media Designers

April 28th at 2:00 pm at Z Space

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