Trouble in Tahiti poster

Something new for the Vancouver International Fringe Festival: an opera! Trouble in Tahiti, a suburban opera for the 21st century, is scored by Leonard Bernstein (known famously for West Side Story) and is directed by Kathleen Lohrenz Gable.

Join the Vancouver International Fringe Festival at the Firehall Arts Centre for eight performances starting on September 8. This is a Fringe featured presentation by Vancouver Concert Opera Co-Operative (“VanCOCO”). VanCOCO brings a unique operatic experience to audiences, producing events that bring musical excellence to both concert and theatrical stages.


This 45 minute one-act opera is split into seven scenes and takes place in 1950’s suburban America. The opera received its first performance on June 12, 1952 at Bernstein’s Festival of the Creative Arts on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, to an audience of nearly 3,000 people. The NBC Opera Theatre later presented the opera on television in November 1952. Bernstein is recognized globally as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.”

cast photo

There are only two main characters, a married couple named Sam and Dinah. Their son, Junior, is often referred to throughout but is never seen or heard. Other characters, including Sam’s secretary Miss Brown, Dinah’s therapist, and a listener in the hat shop—likely one of Dinah’s female friends— are spoken to in certain scenes but never make an appearance during the course of the opera.

The opera also features a chorus consisting of three people; Bernstein refers to them as “A Greek chorus born of the radio commercial”. They sing in quasi-gibberish, sounding like an advertising jingle, describing an idyllic suburban middle class-life of the American 1950s. They pop up throughout the opera to sing of the perfect suburban family life born of the American dream, only to be cut off either by a quarrel between the two or by a miserable lament.

Firehall Arts Centre, 280 E. Cordova Street

Dates and showtimes:
Friday, Sept. 9, 5 pm (*tickets for this show are 1/2 price)
Saturday, Sept. 10, 6:45 pm
Sunday, Sept. 11, 9:30 pm
Tuesday, Sept. 13, 7:15 pm
Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 pm
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17, 11 pm
Sunday, Sept. 18, 7:15 pm

Visit the Vancouver International Fringe Festival website for more information, and check out VanCOCO’s website for upcoming productions.

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