Following up on the joint production of Terence Blanchard’s opera Champion, Opera Parallèle will again collaborate with SFJAZZ. This time the occasion will be a joint celebration of the centennial of the birth of Leonard Bernstein on August 25, 1918. Much of Bernstein’s music was heavily influenced by both jazz and popular song. Those who know their jazz know that Bernstein wrote “Big Stuff” for Billie Holiday, which she first recorded for Decca in November of 1944.
Opera Parallèle will bring to the SFJAZZ Center a fully-staged production of Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti,” which he composed in 1951 using a libretto that he authored. Bernstein’s jazzy side pervades much of his score, particularly in the close harmonies provided by the “Greek chorus” specified in the libretto. The vocalists for this performances will be soprano Krista Wigle, tenor Andres Ramirez, and baritone Bradley Kynard. The cast itself consists only of a husband and wife dealing with the dark side of what was supposed to be a utopian suburban life. Both of these roles will be double-cast with baritones Kyle Albertson and Eugene Brancoveanu and mezzos Renée Rapier and Abigail Levis, respectively.
Abigail Levis and Eugene Brancoveanu in “Trouble in Tahiti” (from the SFJAZZ Web site)
“Trouble in Tahiti” will be preceded by Jake Heggie's “At the Statue of Venus,” a single scene scored for soprano and piano setting a libretto by Terrence McNally. The text is basically the interior monologue of a young woman waiting for her blind date. The setting is a museum, and the woman is waiting at the foot of a statue of the Goddess of Love. The order of presentation will suggest that this is the woman that we shall subsequently encounter as the wife in “Trouble in Tahiti.” Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel has written a “before-and-after” narrative text, which will serve to provide a seamless link between these two operas. Artistic Director Nicole Paiement will conduct.
This production will be given six performances between Thursday, February 15, and Sunday, February 18, preceded by a preview taking place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14. Rapier and Albertson will sing at the preview and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 16, and Sunday, February 18, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 17. Levis and Brancoveanu will present the “opening night” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 15. They will also sing at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 17 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 18. The SFJAZZ Center is located at 201 Franklin Street, on the northwest corner of Fell Street. Tickets are priced from $30 to $170. SFJAZZ has created a single event page with hyperlinks for purchasing tickets to all seven performances.