Underworld Productions Opera to Present TROUBLEFUTURESONGS at Symphony Space, 5/17-19
From May 17 to 19 at Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre at Peter Norton Symphony Space, Underworld Productions Opera (UPO) will present "TROUBLEfuturesongs," an evening of Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti" plus the staged premieres of two shorts: "Voice for a Future Nightingale" by Justine F. Chen and "Outerborough Songs" by Thomas Deneuville. The evening explores desire, denial and domestication in the context of these three short operas, each of which has a couple at its center. The evening is conceived and directed by Gina Crusco and will be conducted by Mark Shapiro.
"Trouble in Tahiti," written between Bernstein's Broadway successes with "On the Town" and "West Side Story," focuses on Sam and Dinah, an unhappy suburban couple who are alienated from each other. Beneath their misery is a deep longing for love and intimacy. After a day of avoiding each other and arguing, they dress to go together to a movie named "Trouble in Tahiti," escaping for yet another evening the pain of their marriage. Throughout the 45-minute opera, a Trio provides satirical commentary, using close harmonies and jazz rhythms to evoke commercials of the period and spotlight the materialism, numbness and complacency of postwar suburban life.
The UPO production will feature some bold casting choices. On May 17 and 19, Sam and Dinah will be portrayed by a black couple, mezzo-soprano Stephanie McGuire and bass-baritone Isaac Grier. On May 18, the role of Dinah, usually a mezzo role, will be sung by coloratura soprano Kelli Butler while baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco will sing the role of Sam. Throughout the run, the Trio will be sung by Michelle Seipel, Miran Robarts and Luis Gonzalez. The work will be presented in the Garth Sunderland orchestral reduction.
In "Voice for a Future Nightingale," composer Justine F. Chen and librettist Ken Gass adapt "The Rape of Philomena by Tereus" from Ovid's "Metamorphosis." In this 10-minute work, newly scored by the composer for piano, flute and cello, the eternal theme of woman as a voiceless victim is expressed, as well as the justice of a woman's revenge. We see the breakdown of trust between Procne and her husband Tereus. In gentle but relentless musical figuration, the action comes to a surprisingly modern, enigmatic conclusion. The role of Philomel will be created by mezzo-soprano Stephanie McGuire.
"Outerborough Songs" by is a 10-minute compilation of three short songs, based on poetry by D. Nurkse, for soprano and electric guitar. In them, a couple grapples with each other and with the great city, revealing moments of passion, both in hot arguments and the oblivion of forgiveness. On May 17 and 19, the work will be sung by Gian-Carla Tisera. On May 18, it will feature Michelle Seipel. Guitarist is Marco Marino.
The evening is designed by Michael Minahan (set), Kia Rogers (lighting) and Edgar Cortes (costumes).