Osud / Trouble in Tahiti – Review – Leeds Grand
Osud / Trouble in Tahiti – Review
Leeds Grand, October 2017
by Ginger Bailey
Another confession to make dear reader, a visit to the theatre to watch an opera, let alone two operas in one evening, had yet to crop up for me. But off to The Grand I went , with Audrey – a trusted, opera-going aficionado if ever I knew one – to watch Opera North’s “The little Greats”. This time they were offering up Osud (‘Destiny’) by Leos Janacek (I hadn’t heard of him) and ‘Trouble in Tahiti’ by Leonard Bernstein (now he sounds familiar – oh yes, he wrote West Side Story). These operas are shorter in length and a perhaps a good taster for people that wouldn’t normally attend the opera.
Now, I admit, I don’t know my aria from my erm, well what ever is the opposite to that, but I know a pleasing sound when I hear one and was looking forward to the evening and finding out what it’s like at the opera.
Osud is up first and, helpfully, there are subtitles playing on the TVs at either side of the stage. But what’s this, they are singing in English! First assumption that they only sing in Italian shattered. I should add that Audrey helps me out beforehand by discussing the plot – the programme helps with this too – which I admit I would have struggled to follow had I not had this discussion beforehand.
“Expectations are high”
I thought Giselle Allen, playing Mila Valkova was great and I enjoyed listening to the Opera North chorus. Also, I wondered if the directing could have been tighter to help with the plot: Take the scene where Mila and her mum plummet to their deaths. Had I not read the programme, I would have thought they were having a dance outside the window. As such, I didn’t feel anything when they died. Perhaps the set didn’t help with this either.
The opera ends and it is interval time and the audience is asked to leave in readiness for the next offering.
We wander back in to watch Trouble in Tahiti, a satire on the American Dream. Satire, which I love, mixed with music, which I love reminds me of The Book of Mormon – and I love that. I watched West Side Story at The Grand several years ago and I enjoyed it. My expectations are high for this one. No subtitles though, and I’m not not sure why. It was easier to follow and I didn’t need the programme to help me this time.
The story follows a couple that are living the dream – posh house in a posh suburb, a big TV, a big fridge; you get the picture – and I realise I am at risk of this turning into a pastiche of the speech Renton makes in Trainspotting.
However, all is not as it seems and the couple are utterly dissatisfied. So much so, when they accidentally bump into each other at lunch time, they lie to each other about meeting up with another lunch date, to avoid having to spend time together. There is a trio, signing ironically about material wealth and poking fun at the wants of the couple.
I was moved by this opera, and it was a powerful comment on how material goods do not lead to feelings of contentment. The couple in this play, depressingly, do not do anything about it, instead they go to the cinema to ameliorate their unhappiness. I thought the ending was superb, with the couple and their young son silhouetted against the back of the stage, a fake image of the perfect family. The music and signing were familiar to me, perhaps because it reminded me of West Side Story, with a jazzy 50s quality.
Overall, I enjoyed the evening and I will certainly be back for more opera soon.
images: Alastair Muir