Cuts, Big in addition to also modest, Transform Leonard Bernstein’s Final Opera
Throughout his long, eventful career, Leonard Bernstein yearned to write, as he put the item, “one real moving American opera that will any American can understand (in addition to also one that will can be, notwithstanding, a serious musical work).”
“A Quiet Place” was his submission to the operatic canon. Bernstein’s final stage work, the item had its premiere in 1983 in addition to also was conceived as a sequel to his bright yet poignant one-act “Trouble in Tahiti,” through 30 years prior.
A sharp satire of suburban anomie that will played with 1950s pop styles, “Tahiti” was laced with autobiographical resonance; the unhappily married couple at its center was based on Bernstein’s parents. “A Quiet Place,” its music in addition to also libretto (by Stephen Wadsworth) more overtly bleak in addition to also jagged, brought the action forward several decades as the “Tahiti” family explodes with grief in addition to also buried anger.
the item was originally presented as the punishingly long second part of a double bill with the snappy “Tahiti.” When This specific was a failure, “Tahiti” (in its entirety) was incorporated as a flashback into the middle of a substantially cut “Quiet Place.” This specific type, through 1986, can be regarded as definitive, yet the item’s hardly ever been done: The forces the item requires are immense, in addition to also its subject matter can be bitter. A completely new York City Opera production in 2010, cunningly staged by Christopher Alden, made a stirring case for an unwieldy, wounding work, yet the item didn’t lead to much completely new interest.
“the item’s a major Bernstein theatrical work that will had just vanished,” said Garth Edwin Sunderland, who as vice president for creative projects at the Leonard Bernstein Office can be a kind of in-house editor in addition to also arranger for the composer’s estate. “One of the reasons had been that will the full work can be magnificent, yet that will magnificence comes at a cost: huge cast, huge orchestra. the item’s expensive. To put the kind of resources that will requires into something challenging can be difficult for major opera companies to manage.”
So there had long been a desire for a more intimate “Quiet Place” that will could be done by conservatories in addition to also smaller companies. Bernstein himself had mulled a Broadway type having a reduced orchestration, yet didn’t get around to the item before his death in 1990.
“We had also wanted to look at various other dramaturgical possibilities for the work,” Mr. Sunderland said. He got to work on what ended up being a seven-year project.
Out, most dramatically, went “Trouble in Tahiti.” Back in came three arias that will had been cut through the final act for the 1986 type. Snips were made throughout. An orchestra of at least 72 players was reduced to an ensemble of 18, creating leaner textures in addition to also encouraging a less, well, operatic singing in addition to also acting style.
This specific chamber adaptation, a tidy 0 minutes long, was unveiled in 2013, in addition to also has recently been released as part of the celebrations of the centennial of Bernstein’s birth — with Kent Nagano conducting the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal — in a recording that will renders the opera newly vivid, direct in addition to also moving. Even for those of us who were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly in addition to also strongly the opera came across at City Opera, This specific completely new type can be vital.
A few days before a performance of the adaptation on Thursday at Tanglewood, within the Berkshires, Mr. Sunderland spoke about the opera in addition to also his work on the item. Here are edited excerpts through the conversation.
What was the overarching goal of the chamber type?
We wanted something that will definitely focused on “A Quiet Place” in addition to also gave an option to do the item without “Trouble in Tahiti,” in addition to also boiled the story down to definitely the core. Rather than the very presentational approach of the 1986 type, we wanted something that will focused on relationships in addition to also the core conflict of a broken family trying to reconcile.
What brought you to the Bernstein Office within the first place?
This specific was my first job out of grad school. the item was just happy serendipity. I’ve always loved his music, in addition to also I was always obsessed with the deep cuts. I loved “Mass” in addition to also all the crazy works. One of the things that will’s been great about This specific job can be that will most of the work I’ve been doing has been on the lesser-known works: “A Quiet Place,” “Songfest.” the item’s been a Great opportunity to me to discover how he developed as a composer. The later works are so complex in addition to also challenging compared to the earlier stuff, like “Fancy Free” or “Chichester Psalms.”
How did you go about This specific “Quiet Place” project?
My first step was to go back to the Houston material [the 1983 premiere was at Houston Grand Opera] in addition to also catalog the alterations in addition to also see what was available, what the item could make sense to restore, what made sense to leave out, whether further cuts should be made. There are three arias in Act III that will are restored, in addition to also a pretty sizable cut in Act I.
What we also decided to do was create a completely new edition of the 1986 type, in addition to also that will was just in time for the City Opera production. Christopher Alden made a case that will that will type of the opera definitely was definitive, yet we wanted to see what happened if we let “A Quiet Place” stand on its own.
yet This specific isn’t just the Houston type. that will definitely got a pummeling through the critics in addition to also the authors understood that will. There’s a reason they made such a radical revision. One of the things This specific adaptation does can be give François [who can be, in a glimpse of the opera’s thematic thorns, both the grown daughter’s husband in addition to also her brother’s ex-lover] a little more focus, because within the 1986 type a lot of his material was cut. I put back his climactic aria in Act III; I think that will the biggest difference between 1986 in addition to also This specific adaptation can be the way Act III builds to a crisis. In 1986, the item’s a little softer.
How did seeing the City Opera production affect your work?
the item gave me a stronger sense of the opera itself in addition to also the authors’ goals for the item. One thing the item did spur me to do was make a cut in Act I. the item’s so long in addition to also so grueling that will sometimes audiences weren’t coming back. There were a lot of empty seats in Act II in addition to also III. Which isn’t a surprise: the item’s the experience of being at a funeral you don’t want to be at. the item’s not Act I of “La Bohème.”
I think 1986 can be the vision of the authors in addition to also the item’s correct. yet because we were seeing what could be done with the opera, we gave ourselves some freedom in addition to also allowed the opera to take a different shape.
What did you do to the orchestration?
One of the things that will’s so difficult within the 1986 type can be the size of that will orchestra. the item’s got a synthesizer in addition to also an electric guitar in addition to also the item’s a lot for the singers to get over; the item requires a different approach through the singers. the item has to be a bigger style. that will’s not a bad thing, the item’s a different thing. The completely new orchestration allows a different theatrical approach: a smaller, more detailed performance. the item’s for a different performance space, where the audience can be closer.
I tried to maintain his sound world, to capture the item with an 18-piece ensemble. in addition to also I’m definitely proud of the orchestral moments: The Act I postlude can be one of the most beautiful things Bernstein ever wrote. the item’s like 75 lines of counterpoint, in addition to also to keep that will intensity with just 18 players was difficult, in addition to also I like to think I pulled the item off. I was definitely pleased by how not-modest the item feels.
Why the excision of “Trouble in Tahiti”?
To my mind, because “Trouble in Tahiti” can be a different sound world. the item’s like, “Let’s listen to these wonderful tunes.” Whereas “A Quiet Place” can be like, “Let’s immerse in This specific.” We wanted to see what “A Quiet Place” can be if the item’s not a sequel to “Trouble in Tahiti.” There are callbacks within the “Quiet Place” score to “Tahiti,” yet you don’t need to know the callbacks are callbacks.
What do you see as the future balance between the 1986 type in addition to also This specific adaptation?
1986 can be the definitive type, in addition to also Christopher Alden made a case for how valid that will type can be. They’re intended for different halls in addition to also different presenters. Tanglewood in addition to also the Curtis Institute of Music, places that will wouldn’t be able to handle 1986, can do the adaptation.
There was a lot of interest within the 1986 type for the centennial, yet there are just a lot of challenges to the item. yet when you have a company as adventurous as George [Steel]’s City Opera was — there are people who will take the risk on the item. The future of This specific completely new type remains to be seen. The recording with Kent Nagano will certainly breathe completely new life into the item. in addition to also I was at the dress rehearsal at Tanglewood for Peter Kazaras’s production in addition to also the item’s heartbreaking.
What was Kent Nagano’s role within the project?
When we first had This specific idea, I was working with Kent in Munich on the premiere of my chamber orchestration of “Trouble in Tahiti,” in addition to also I said, “We’re thinking about This specific adaptation of ‘A Quiet Place.’” He had been working with Bernstein around the time of the 1986 production in addition to also he always thought a smaller type could be to the opera’s benefit.
in addition to also he connected us with Ensemble Modern to get the premiere to happen in 2013, in addition to also he was a huge help in bringing This specific to fruition. He did the item a year or two ago in Montreal, a year or two before they did the recording, in addition to also then he brought the item back. He loves the work in addition to also we’re so grateful he’s such a passionate advocate.
Follow Zachary Woolfe on Twitter: @zwoolfe.