Music by Leonard Bernstein Libretto by Stephen Wadsworth after an original libretto by the composer
About A Quiet Place
Leonard Bernstein's first essay into opera was the one-act Trouble in Tahiti, to his own libretto. Thirty years later, when he composed his only full-length opera, Bernstein and librettist Stephen Wadsworth returned to this piece for inspiration. Originally A Quiet Place was planned as a double bill with the earlier work, but in the finished score Trouble in Tahiti appears as two extended flashbacks in Act II of A Quiet Place.
Cast of Characters
Chorus of guests at the funeral, etc.
A Quiet Place
In the prologue, onlookers comment on a car accident in which Dinah, one of the protagonists of Trouble in Tahiti, is killed. At the funeral, Sam, Dinah's husband, fights with their two children, Dede and Junior, and with François, Dede's French-Canadian husband and Junior's ex-lover. Junior, who has a history of mental problems, taunts his father with a kind of bizarre striptease, and all four family members leave separately. Later, Sam is reading Dinah's diaries. As Dede helps him sort through her mother's closet, we see the action of Trouble in Tahiti in a pair of extended flashbacks; meanwhile, Fran&cced;ois helps Junior sort through his relationships with his family.
Trouble in Tahiti
A vocal trio sings about the pleasures of life in the suburbs; young Sam and Dinah fight over the breakfast table. Sam decides to skip his son's school show: winning the handball cup at the gym is more important to him. As Sam works his way through another successful day, winning the handball cup and pleased with his day at work, Dinah wonders what became of the quiet place she wanted to make for herself, and what happened to her marriage. The two pass each other in the street; each makes up an excuse for their not having lunch together; later, they wish they didn't have to. Dinah goes to see a terrible movie, Trouble in Tahiti; though she knows it's drivel, she get caught up in the romance of the story. That evening, the couple try to talk about their relationship, but neither is able to open up. Sam suggests they see a movie together; they leave to watch Trouble in Tahiti.
A Quiet Place
The next day, Dede is weeding her mother's garden; she is joined by her husband and her brother in a game of tag. Sam joins them, and there is a brief moment of reconciliation and good feeling as they read passages from Dinah's diary; though they quickly lapse back into bitterness, at the end of the opera the family joins in a real embrace.
World premiere (Trouble in Tahiti) Waltham, Massachusetts June 12, 1952
Television premiere (Trouble in Tahiti)
Broadway premiere (Trouble in Tahiti)
(As part of the show All in One)
World premiere (A Quiet Place, one act version) Houston Grand Opera June 17, 1993 John DeMain, conductor Mark Schifter, stage director (double bill with Trouble in Tahiti)
World Premiere (A Quiet Place, full version) La Scala, Milan, Italy June 19, 1984 John Mauceri, conductor Stephen Wadsworth, stage director (incorporating Trouble in Tahiti)
U.S. Premiere (A Quiet Place, full version) Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. 1984 John Mauceri, conductor
Company premiere (A Quiet Place) Vienna State Opera, Vienna, Austria April 1, 1986 Leonard Bernstein, conductor Stephen Wadsworth, stage director
Company premiere (A Quiet Place) Bilefeld, Germany 1987
Company premiere (A Quiet Place) Maastricht, the Netherlands 1987
Company premiere (Trouble in Tahiti) Tulsa Opera, Tulsa, Oklahoma 1995 Sam: Matthew Lau Dinah: Luretta Bybee Carol I. Crawford, conductor (Double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana)