Opera North Blog

Want to learn more about Trouble in Tahiti and Trial by Jury? Look no further.


Part of The Little Greats season of short operas, Trouble in Tahiti and Trial by Jury can be seen individually or together in Leeds and are paired together in a double-bill at all tour venues.

So what are the top 10 things you need to know?

1. Trouble in Tahiti is a short 45 minute work by a true giant of American music theatre, Leonard Bernstein. His blockbusting musicals include On The Town (1944) and West Side Story (1957) - so with songs like 'New York, New York' and 'Tonight' in his back catalogue, even if you've never seen Trouble in Tahiti, there's a high chance you'll come out humming the tunes! Trouble in Tahiti, which premiered in 1952, follows a warring suburban couple, Sam and Dinah, over the course of one day. 

2. Bernstein's music brilliantly brings together influences from a range of genres, fusing opera and musical theatre with jazz and Latin rhythms. The main story of Trouble in Tahiti is framed by a jazz trio, whose upbeat, sunny music points up the contrast between the cultural narrative of the American Dream as a golden life in the suburbs and the reality of Sam and Dinah's feelings about each other:

Lovely day, lovely life, happily married, sweet little son, family picture second to none, it's a wonderful life...

Here's a clip of the opening scene of Trouble in Tahiti, featuring the trio singing 'Morning Sun', from a 2001 BBC film version, directed by Tom Cairns and conducted by Paul Daniel:

3. Sam and Dinah are played in our production by Dutch baritone Quirijn de Lang and Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta. Quirijn's most recent roles at Opera North include Dandini in Cinderella, Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, and Fred/ Petruchio in Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate. Wallis made her Opera North debut in the lead role of Angelina in Cinderella in 2017.

4. But what about that title? It isn't set in Tahiti - Trouble in Tahiti is the title of a movie musical which Dinah goes to see twice in the same day. In her show-stopping song "What a movie!” she recounts her frustration with the film, yet in a clear parody of musicals such as South Pacific, she is swept away by the romantic magic its soundtrack offers:"dancing with the US Navy boys, and a hundred-piece symphony orchestra…"

Watch 'What a movie!' here in this clip from the 2001 BBC film version, with Stephanie Novacek as Dinah:

5. We’ve programmed three film screenings in the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, to complement the themes of Trouble in Tahiti. Revolutionary Road (2008), Carol (2015) and Journey to Italy (1953) are all beautifully made explorations of the cultural confines within which marriage and relationships operated in the 1950s.

6. Trial by Jury is one of the earliest works by the ever-popular Gilbert and Sullivan, cementing a partnership that took Victorian musical theatre by storm and arguably created a genre entirely of its own. W.S. Gilbert (words) and Arthur Sullivan (music) created a run of 14 comic operas, including The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. Their works are sometimes called operettas, meaning light operas, or Savoy operas, referring to the Savoy Theatre where many of their works premiered.

7. The cast for Trial by Jury is made up entirely of company members from the Chorus of Opera North, including Nicholas Watts as Edwin, Jeremy Peaker as the Learned Judge, and Amy Freston as Angelina. Amy has performed many roles at Opera North, and G&S afficionados may also remember her as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore (2010-2012).

Gilbert and Sullivan has so much appeal because it's funny, clever, universal and everyone can relate to it even though it is often dressed up in ridiculous costumes and situations. It’s also such good fun to perform!

- Amy Freston, Angelina, Trial by Jury

8. A comic farce, Trial by Jury concerns a legal ‘breach of promise’ case brought by a glamorous woman whose intended husband has jilted her. Gilbert developed a "topsy-turvy" style of comic writing, starting with a ridiculous premise and taking it completely seriously within the world of each piece, generally leading to absurd consequences! He used this satirical style to ridicule the British establishment, including the legal system.

9. The role of the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury was originally performed by Sullivan’s brother, Fred, and was a prototype for the baritone ‘patter’ roles in many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s later works, characterised by speedy and comic vocal delivery. Among the most famous examples is ‘I am the very model of a modern Major-General’ from The Pirates of Penzance, here performed by English National Opera with Andrew Shore as Major-General Stanley, directed by Mike Leigh:

10. Trouble in Tahiti and Trial by Jury are each around 45 minutes long, and they are sung in English. If you see them together in a double bill, the interval will be around 30 minutes, so plenty of time to grab an ice-cream or a drink at the bar and take in what you’ve just seen!

Find out more about The Little Greats, Opera North's Autumn 2017 season of short operas with huge emotions. 


Wallis Giunta and Quirijn de Lang, Trouble in Tahiti artwork. Photo: Richard Moran/Opera North.

Leonard Bernstein, 1955. Photo: US Library of Congress

Wallis Giunta, photographed at the artwork shoot for Trouble in Tahiti. Photo: Opera North

Jeremy Peaker and Amy Freston, Trial by Jury artwork. Photo: Richard Moran/Opera North.

Grant Doyle as Robin Oakapple and Amy Freston as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore at Opera North, 2010. Photo: Robert Workman

Jeremy Peaker in rehearsal as the Learned Judge. Photo: Tom Arber

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