/ News / Leonard Bernstein discusses A Quiet Place

“There is a garden, come with me, come with me, a shining garden come and see. Your love will teach us harmony and grace, your love will lead us to a quiet place.” —from Trouble in Tahiti, 1951

In 1984, one night before premiering his revised version of A Quiet Place at La Scala, Leonard Bernstein sat down with John Gruen for an interview to appear in the New York Times. In the interview, Bernstein explains that the opera is about lack of communication in families: the inability of family members to express themselves to one another and the "rarely obtained goal of peace in family and relationships." Bernstein suggests that the work not only makes use of predominantly American-sounding music, but also the American language: how people do or do not speak English and "how people don't finish sentences when they start them."

The impetus for A Quiet Place was Bernstein's curiosity about what had happened to the characters from his earlier opera, Trouble in Tahiti.  In this clip, he gives a synopsis of the original and revised versions and how Trouble in Tahiti is woven throughout the new iteration: 

 

In the interview, Bernstein is candid about his disappointment with the opera's reception and anxious about how the revised version will be received. It is rare to hear such vulnerability from him.  In his response to previous criticism, he quotes Verdi, who wrote an open letter to critics of Aida: “I wrote the best opera I could...I can’t do any better.”

The Curtis Opera Theater performs A Quiet Place this spring in Philadelphia and New York. 

—Barbara Benedett, digital archivist, Curtis Archives
For more information on Curtis history, visit the Curtis Archives.