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Boston Midsummer Opera presents Bernstein’s ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ and Sandra Piques Eddy Hoiby’s ‘Bon Appétit!’


Boston audiences will be in for a tasty treat this summer when Boston Midsummer Opera (BMO) presents its 2010 production, a unique two-course evening featuring Leonard Bernstein’s bittersweet classic Trouble in Tahiti and Lee Hoiby’s delicious Bon Appétit!, starring Tony Award winner Judy Kaye as Julia Child. Playing at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University for three performances only, July 28, 30 and August 1, both productions are sung in English and performed with orchestra. The fully staged and costumed production is conducted by the nationally acclaimed Susan Davenny Wyner.

Trouble in Tahiti, a tale of suburban love in distress, depicts the longing lurking beneath the surface of a perfect 1950’s American marriage. Directed by Scott Edmiston, this one-act masterpiece was Leonard Bernstein’s first foray into opera musical theater when it premiered in 1952 with Bernstein conducting. Bernstein attacks the subject matter of the malaise hiding behind the picture-perfect family lives of post-war suburbia by focusing on one married couple, Sam and Dinah, who are played by baritone Stephen Salters and mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy. The work depicts one day in their lives and also features a trio of solo singers (Megan Roth, mezzo soprano, Brian R. Robinson, tenor, David Lara, baritone) that Bernstein refers to as “a sort of Greek chorus born of pop radio commercials.” Bernstein sought to break new ground by creating “a truly American opera” with Trouble and Tahiti. He wrote his own libretto and deliberately avoided anything overtly “operatic.” All of the music and words derive from American vernacular and popular roots. He said his goal was to set American words the most natural way possible without losing lyricism or melody so that “they will sound in the American cadence and with the American kind of syncopated, almost slurred quality.” Bernstein began Trouble and Tahiti while on his honeymoon with his new bride, actress Felicia Monealegre, in Mexico—calling it “a really nice surprise from the Gods” and telling his manager to cancel all his gigs because his creative juices were flowing. Even so, he barely finished it in time for its first performance at Brandeis. It is thought that Sam and Dinah may well have been inspired by the difficult marriage of Bernstein’s own mother and father.

The evening concludes with a taste of Bon Appétit!, Lee Hoiby’s delightful musicalization of a classic Julia Child television broadcast, directed by David Green. In this “episode,” the master chef, played by veteran Broadway star Judy Kaye, demonstrates the makings of a classic French chocolate cake in her beloved and inimitable style. Hoiby’s lively score illuminates Child’s words and witticisms and takes viewers on a musical journey as this culinary adventure unfolds before their eyes.

Baritone Stephen Salters (Sam) has performed a wide range of repertoire that has won him acclaim throughout Europe, the UK, Asia, and the United States. He works regularly with leading conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, James Conlon, Seiji Ozawa, Keith Lockhart, Will Crutchfield, Leonard Slatkin, Hugh Woldd, Bobby McFerrin and others. Boston audiences saw Mr. Salters perform recently with Opera Boston in the role of Toussaint in Toussaint Before The Saints. A celebrated recitalist, Mr. Salters has thrilled and moved audiences all over the world and is a much sought-after interpreter and advocate of “new music.” He has won several prestigious awards, including a George London Foundation Award and Walter N. Naumburg Prize.

Mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy (Dinah) is gaining recognition as one of America’s rising young singing actresses. Her recent portrayals of Mercedes in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Carmen and as Idamante in the Boston Lyric Opera production of Idomeneo received glowing reviews. Ms. Eddy has also performed leading roles with the New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, the Spoleto Festival, and many other companies nationally. On the concert stage, Ms. Eddy has appeared with the Spoleto USA festival, at Avery Fisher Hall in Handel’s Messiah with the National Chorale, and often with Boston Baroque Ensemble. Ms. Eddy received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Boston Conservatory and a Master’s degree in vocal performance from Boston University’s School for the Arts. She was the 2000 New England Regional First Place Winner and National Semi-Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Directing Trouble in Tahiti is award-winning Scott Edmiston, a professor and the founder of Brandeis University’s Office of the Arts. He has been an Associate Professor in the School of Theatre Arts at Boston University, Artistic Associate of the Huntington Theatre Company, and Artistic Director of the Pennsylvania Stage Company. He served as an artistic associate of the Huntington Theatre Company and on the faculty of the College of Fine Arts at Boston University for six years. His work in opera has included directing Nixon in China and Chabrier’s L’étoile for Opera Boston. Mr. Edmiston has won multiple IRNE and Elliot Norton awards for his directing work.

Tony Award-winning Judy Kaye (Julia Child) is currently playing a lead role in Harold Prince’s newest show Paradise Found in its opening performances in London, and she was seen in an acclaimed production of Lost in Yonkers at the Old Globe in San Diego earlier this year. Judy Kaye’s career has bridged the worlds of opera and musical theater. She has performed at Carnegie and with New York City Opera and starred on Broadway in Souvenir, A Fantasia On The Life Of Florence Foster Jenkins, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. She also performed Souvenir to acclaim at the York Theatre, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and in Los Angeles, where she won a LA Ovation Award as Best Actress, and she also starred as Mrs. Lovett on Broadway and in the National Tour of Sweeney Todd. More highlights of her career include Broadway productions of Phantom of the Opera (Tony and Drama Desk nomination), Mamma Mia (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), On the Twentieth Century (Theatre World Award, Drama Desk nomination), Ragtime (Theatre LA Ovation Award), Musetta in La Bohème, Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld, and Lucy Lockett in The Beggars Opera, all at the Santa Fe Opera.

Director David Green is also an actor who has appeared in many Broadway and off-Broadway plays. His Broadway credits include Annie, Evita, Teddy & Alice, and The Flowering Peach. He was also in The Pajama Game for NY City Opera, as well as many other regional and national productions. Mr. Green also has appeared on popular TV shows such as Law and Order (guest starring in five different episodes); Criminal Intent, The Practice and E.R. Mr. Green is a director and acting coach and teaches master classes with Judy Kaye.

Conductor and acting BMO Artistic Director Susan Davenny Wyner has been nationally acclaimed for her conducting. The Library of Congress featured her in its 2003 “Women Who Dare” Engagement Calendar, and the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour and WGBH Television have presented special documentary features on her life and work. Her conducting credits include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Boston Lyric Opera, the Danish Odense Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra members in special benefit concerts. André Previn, Lynn Harrell, Claude Frank, Peter Serkin, and Emanuel Ax, have been among her guest soloists. She has also conducted concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, in Italy and the Czech Republic, and has been Music Director and Conductor of The Warren Philharmonic Orchestra near Cleveland, Ohio since 1999, and of Opera Western Reserve since its founding in 2004. From 1999-2005 she was Music Director and Conductor of The New England String Ensemble in Boston, which she brought to national prominence. She has conducted recordings for CBS Radio and Bridge and Albany Records—the latest release on Bridge records was designated one of 2009’s Ten Best by the Amercian Record Guide. Prior to her career as a conductor, she was an internationally known soprano, performing with the MET Opera, New York City Opera, and major orchestras and conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Erich Leinsdorf, Colin Davis, Lorin Maazel and Andre Previn.

The design team for Trouble in Tahiti and Bon Appétit! Include Janie Howland (sets), Chip Schoonmaker (costumes), and Karen Perlow (lights).

Compiled from the press release courtesy Boston Midsummer Opera (website | profile | tag archive).

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