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RCM Opera Studio presents Bernstein and Berkeley double bill

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The Royal College of Music Opera Studio is taking audiences back to the booming fifties this summer with a double bill of Bernstein’s sardonic Trouble in Tahiti and Berkeley’s delightful comedy of manners, A Dinner Engagement.

Promising an evening of sparkling musical satire, the operas originally premiered within two years of each other and, when performed together, provide insight and witty commentary on the domestic conventions of the 1950s.

In the first performance of the evening, the RCM Opera Studio lifts the curtain on 1950s suburbia with a rare staging of Trouble in Tahiti. Peeling back the sunny veneer of the American dream, Bernstein’s seven-scene operetta offers a glimpse into the marriage of brash capitalist Sam and frustrated housewife, Dinah.

Bernstein provided both the music and libretto for his 1952 satire, penning much of his tale of marital misery while on his own honeymoon. From arias that plumb the depths of domestic woe to the infectiously cheerful Greek chorus and their swing-style songs, this kitchen sink drama brings evening to the stage: big musical numbers, traditional opera and a touch of jazz.

Berkley’s A Dinner Engagement follows, providing a comic lift with the disastrous dinner plans of its central bickering couple. Hard times have fallen upon Lord and Lady Dunmow, who are struggling to keep up appearances for some important dinner guests. The Grand Duchess is en route with her son, Prince Philippe – an eligible match for the Dunmows’ beautiful, albeit sulky, daughter Susan.

Unfortunately, all attempts at self-catering quickly descend into culinary calamity. As smoke begins to billow from the ovens, settle in for a charming comedy of manners, cleverly told in a light-hearted libretto by Paul Dehn and set to Berkeley’s colourful score.

Stephen Unwin returns to the Royal College of Music to direct this summer’s double-bill. An experienced theatre and opera director and writer, he has directed more than 50 plays and operas and written 8 books on theatre and drama to date. Stephen held a residency at the National Theatre in the 1990s and his operatic successes include Gianni Schicchi at the English National Opera and Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Royal Opera House.

This production is made possible with the assistance of the Basil Coleman Bequest.

As is traditional for RCM opera productions, two casts will alternate performances, giving as many accomplished young singers as possible the chance to take to the RCM’s Britten Theatre stage.

Tickets are now available to book online at rcm.ac.uk/rcmopera. Alternatively, call the RCM Box Office on 020 7591 4314 or visit in person on Prince Consort Road SW7.