I have always been a great admirer of Leonard Bernstein's short opera, Trouble in Tahiti, and, accordingly, I was delighted when my companion Howard recently brought home from the library the 2001 DVD cinematic recording, performed by the City of London Sinfonia and directed by Tom Cairns.
Mornin' sun kisses the windows,
Kisses the walls
Of the little white house;
Kisses the door-knob, kisses the roof,
Kisses the door-knob and pretty red roof
Of the little white house in Scarsdale.
—there is a crueler reality within that suburban household that shares much with the writings of period by J. D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Allen Ginsberg, and, later, Edward Albee. Dinah and Sam have seemingly everything they might want, he a good job, she a beautiful home with the latest appliances, and a child right out of a Norman Rockwell catalogue, shown in the first scene dressed in cowboy suit watching a cartoon that seems to be teaching the important lesson of American accumulation of goods. The couple begins their interchange with full hostility, Sam (Karl Daymond) singing "How could you say that thing that you did in front of the kid!," Dinah (Stephanie Novacek) reacting, "You were the first to go up in smoke." Both are "sick of this life," the humiliations, "the nagging," the impossibility of having a friendly conversation.
Los Angeles, December 20, 2009