Trouble in Tahiti is latest Bernstein in Chichester offering

Trouble in Tahiti
Trouble in Tahiti

The city’s Bernstein in Chichester centenary celebration continues with a production of Trouble in Tahiti, the only work for which Bernstein wrote both the music and libretto.

It is being performed for one night only in the Assembly Room on Thursday, September 13 by the Hastings-based Stage Left Project, with Sophie Goldrick (mezzo), Alistair Sutherland (bari-tone), Chiara Vinci (soprano), Laurence Panter (tenor) and Tom Clarkson (tenor), directed by Amelia Cardwell.

As Tom explains, he and Chiara set up the company after moving from London to Hastings a couple of years ago.

“We started it really because we were so inspired when we moved down here, me and Chiara, my co-artistic director and my partner. We took part in the mardi gras celebrations down here, and they are huge. And we were asked by the director of Barefoot Opera if we would do some folk ballads. We took our ten-minute show around town and were buskers for a day.

“But there was not so much theatre around here, and because I have a theatre background, we thought we would set up a company and see how it goes. And the genesis of the company was that first show that we did. Trouble in Tahiti was our first production.

“For me, Trouble in Tahiti is quite a special production. It’s how I fell into opera. I was in a production and that was how I met Chiara, so for me, it is special.

“But I was aware of this upcoming celebration for the Bernstein centenary in Chichester, and Trouble in Tahiti is one of those shows that is blisteringly relevant. It is essentially about the pit-falls of being in a consumerist society, and especially for us coming from the big city, London, down to somewhere clearer and cleaner like Hastings, we could see just how much you are caught up in all that.”

Written between Bernstein’s biggest Broadway successes – On The Town in 1944 and West Side Story in 1957 – Trouble in Tahiti is prized as the only stage work for which Leonard Bernstein wrote both the music and the libretto.

It has become one of the most frequently-performed American short operas.

“And it is still so relevant to the audience.

“Also it is only 45 minutes long. A lot of audiences struggle to come to opera that is three hours long, and a lot of people would struggle to come to something that is more traditional.

“This is only 45 minutes, but they are a really intense 45 minutes. It is action-packed. It is completely non-stop, and there is a lot of choreography involved.

“We have been touring it. We did a tour of small spaces in the south-east. We went to some very interesting places. The most interesting was the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate which, I think, is the world’s smallest theatre.

“The show in Chichester will be our last with Trouble in Tahiti. It will be our final show. We have no plans to continue it. You never say never, but for the moment, this is it. It is quite a difficult show to tour. We have got lots of props and the logistics are quite difficult. It has been quite a challenge. Also, we are looking at doing more original work in the future.”

Trouble in Tahiti will be performed on September 13 at 7.30pm in the Assembly Room, The Council House, North Street, Chichester. Tickets £15 from 01243 816525; or Chichester Box Office, The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester PO19 1QH.

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