Bernstein’s Opera “A Quiet Place” Comes to Tanglewood Tonight [Berkshire on Stage]

Leonard Bernstein during rehearsals of “A Quiet Place” in 1983. (Photo: Arthur Elgort)

Peter Kazaras has been involved with Leonard Bernstein’s seldom performed opera A Quiet Place since its world premiere at the Houston Grand Opera in 1983 when he sang the role of François. In the first few years after the premiere, he sang that role in several iterations of the piece, which he characterizes as one of the most universally misunderstood of Bernstein’s compositions. Now he is acting as stage director for tonight’s (Thursday, August 9) presentation at Tanglewood.

Presented then as a second half to Bernstein’s 1951 opera Trouble in Tahiti, the premiere in Houston was generally reviled in the press. “Bernstein wrote Trouble in Tahiti as a honeymoon present for his wife, Felicia Montealegre. When he wrote A Quiet Place 30 years later she had passed away, so the tone of the two works is very different, and the audience just wasn’t ready for it,” Kazaras explained. “The producers postponed the previously scheduled performances at La Scala and the Kennedy Center to retool. In the next version of A Quiet Place, Trouble in Tahiti was folded into Act II.”

Trouble In Tahiti introduces us to Sam and Dinah, a middle aged suburban couple with one child, a son, Junior. Sam works, Dinah is a stay-at-home mother in typical post-war mode. They are comfortably off but restless in their marriage, each seeking to find satisfaction in what should be the American Dream. But despite their troubles the opera ends on a hopeful note, with a reconciled couple headed off to an evening at the movies.

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