Thursday, August 26, 2010

“Trouble in Tahiti, indeed! -----Trouble in Tahiti, imagine!"

"Trouble in Tahiti!," sings Nancy Williams in this great clip from the 1973 production by Amberson Video, "Indeed!"

Williams plays the character Dinah in this one-act opera by Leonard Bernstein written shortly after his marriage to Felicia Monealegre. He must have found its construction to be endlessly entertaining at that time, and he wrote both the words and the music.

The plot is about emotional isolation in the suburbs. This is a couple that has everything they could ever need; but they have lost themselves, lost one another.

In scene VI, Dinah has just come from a matinee and is in the process of getting a makeover. The beauty shop in this production is symbolic of transformation, but the text speaks in excited stream-of-consciousness. The music veers away from A-flat major, always to return until the Hollywood grand ending. The energy is playful, and if politically incorrect, at least its over-the-top:

[0:00-0:26] Opening Recitative
What a movie!
What a terrible, awful movie!
It’s a crime what they put
on the screen!
I can hardly believe what I’ve seen!

Do they think we’re a lot of children?
It would bore any four year old!
What drivel! What nonsense!
What escapist Technicolor twaddle!

[0:27-0:59] An exotic world: gongs, flutter-tongue flutes and other strange colors:
“Trouble in Tahiti,” indeed!
“Trouble in Tahiti,” imagine!
There she is in her inch or two of sarong
Floating, floating, floating, all among the
floating flowers.
[1:00-1:13] In A-flat major: Hot-cha, Hot-cha rhythms and syncopated thinking:
Then she sees him, the handsome American.
(I must say he’s really a man,
Six feet tall, and each foot just incredible!)
Well, they’re madly in love,
But there’s trouble ahead;
[1:13-1:20] A parenthetical musical detour through bVI (F-flat major):
Bernstein asks that it be sung in "South Pacific Accent:"
There’s a legend:
“If a princess marry white man, and rain fall that day,
Then the white man shall be sacrifice without delay.”

[1:21-1:32] Back on track in A-flat Major:
Sure enough, on the night of their wedding day,
There’s a storm like nothing on earth;
Tidal waves and siroccos and hurricanes;
And to top it all off,
The volcano erupts
[1:32-1:42] Nasal singing of a riff that sounds vaguely Gamelan [Eb,G,Ab,Bb,Db]:
As the natives sing: Ah! Ah! Ah! Olé!

[1:43-1:49] A parenthetical musical detour through bVI (F-flat major):
They go crazy with the drumming and the chanting and ritual dance,
While the lovers sing a ballad of South Seas romance.
[1:50-2:02] Back on track in A-flat Major:
It’s so lovely, I wish I could think of it;
Da da dee da da…
It was called “Island Magic,”
I think it was.
Oh, a beautiful song!
I remember it now:
[2:03-2:16] Island magic: also in bVI (F-flat major]
“Island Magic, where the midnight breezes caress us,
And the stars above
seem to bless us,
That’s Island Magic, Island Magic.”

[2:15-2:23] A parenthetical musical detour through bVI (F-flat major):
Well, in any case, the hero is tied to a tree.
(Did I tell you he’s a flyer
who got lost at sea?)
[2:23-2:36] Back on track in A-flat Major:
Anyway, all the natives are crazy now,
Running wild with lances and knives;
Then they pile up the wood for the sacrifice,
And the witch doctor comes,
And he sets it on fire.

[2:36-2:45] Gamelan-like riff returns:
As the natives sing: Ah! Ah! Ah! Olé!
[2:45-2:54] Detour through bVI (F-flat major) with fifes and military drums:
But at this point, comes the good old U.S. Navy,
A-singin’ a song.
They come swarming down in parachutes a thousand strong!
[2:55-3:18] Finale: Sudden shift to A major...bright as sunlight and faster!
Everything now is cleared up and wonderful:
Everyone is happy as pie;
And they all do a great rumba version of “Island Magic” of course!
It’s a dazzling sight;
With the sleek brown native women dancing with the U.S. Navy boys,
And a hundred-piece symphony orchestra:
[3:19-3:35] Island magic:(F major]“with background singers
Island Magic! Where the palm trees whisper together,
And it’s always warm summer weather,
That’s Island Magic,

[3:35-3:44] Island Magic in B-flat minor
Island Magic! With the one I love very near;

[3:44-3:44] Island Magic in G-flat major
Island Magic, Whispering native words in my ear.

[3:44-3:44] Island Magic Cadence that prolongs an E-flat dominant 7th chord
Island Magic,
Only you, my darling, could weave it,
And I never ever will leave it,
[3:44-3:44] Island Magic: deceptive resolution to F major
And I simply cannot believe
It really is mine!

[3:44-4:22] On its way somewhere else
Island Magic!
Island Ma…”
[4:23-End] Dinah suddenly regains focus and jumps back to the opening recitative:
What a terrible, awful movie!!!
How long have I been standing here chattering?
If I don’t get going this minute, there won’t be any dinner
When Sam comes home!

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