A Quiet Place

Leonard Bernstein at 100Composer, conductor, author, and music icon Leonard Bernstein is still fascinating audiences 100 years after his birth. Best known for creating cultural touchstones like West Side StoryOn the Waterfront, and Candide, he called A Quiet Place “unlike any work I have ever written or seen.” The opera revisits the unhappy suburban family from Trouble in Tahiti thirty years later, only to find them reeling in the wake of tragedy. Unhappy memories and long-buried resentments surface, and the survivors have a choice: to hurt one another again—or to heal. The chamber adaptation by Garth Edwin Sunderland receives its American premiere from the Curtis Opera Theatre, in a production by director Daniel Fish. Corrado Rovaris, Opera Philadelphia’s Jack Mulroney Music Director, leads members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Bernstein’s dramatic music–by turns explosive, elegiac, and playful–given a more intimate scale in Sunderland’s orchestration. 

Curtis Opera Theatre at the Perelman in partnership with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Fully staged production with members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, sung in English with supertitles

About the Opera

Dinah has died in a car crash, and a group of friends and relatives has gathered for her funeral. Her husband Sam is present, but self-absorbed. The wife of Dinah’s doctor, Mrs. Doc, asks Dinah’s analyst about their sessions. The funeral director asks about Dinah’s children, Dede and Junior, who have not arrived.

 

Dede and her husband François arrive and meet Susie, Dinah’s best friend; Dinah’s brother Bill; and Mrs. Doc. The funeral director asks to begin the service, even though Junior has not appeared. A series of readings is given by Bill, Susie, Dede, Doc, and Mrs. Doc.

 

The service is interrupted as Junior bursts into the room. Sam breaks out of his silence to confront his son. Dede and Junior attempt to engage him, but he leaves, enraged.

Sam is at home reading Dinah’s diary. He discovers Dinah’s suicide note. Before he can read it, Dede enters. She opens her mother’s closet and finds clothes, old photos, family recipes, and “kid’s things.” Sam softens in Dede’s presence.

 

François has entered Junior’s room to confront him about his behavior. Junior launches into a partially incoherent raving about his past relationship with his sister and their father’s discovery of them together. François becomes infuriated, but realizes that Junior is trying to express that he misses the love of his father.

 

François tells Dede how much he loves her.

Sam is at home reading Dinah’s diary. He discovers Dinah’s suicide note. Before he can read it, Dede enters. She opens her mother’s closet and finds clothes, old photos, family recipes, and “kid’s things.” Sam softens in Dede’s presence.

 

François has entered Junior’s room to confront him about his behavior. Junior launches into a partially incoherent raving about his past relationship with his sister and their father’s discovery of them together. François becomes infuriated, but realizes that Junior is trying to express that he misses the love of his father.

 

François tells Dede how much he loves her.

 

Biographies

Corrado Rovaris is the music director of Opera Philadelphia and of the Artosphere Festival Orchestra. He also serves as principal conductor of the chamber orchestra I Virtuosi Italiani.

After graduating from the Conservatory of Milan with degrees in composition, organ, and harpsichord, Mr. Rovaris served as assistant chorus master of Teatro alla Scala in Milan. He was a guest conductor in many of the major Italian houses, including La Scala, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, and Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Internationally he has led productions for the Opéra de Lyon, Théâtre Municipal de Lausanne, Oper Köln, Oper Frankfurt, and Japan Opera Foundation in Tokyo, among others.

Making his U.S. debut in 1999 with the Opera Company of Philadelphia (now Opera Philadelphia), Mr. Rovaris was appointed its music director in 2005. Recent productions with Opera Philadelphia include Written on Skin by George Benjamin and the world premiere of Elizabeth Cree by Kevin Puts. Mr. Rovaris has conducted multiple joint productions of the Curtis Opera Theatre and Opera Philadelphia, including Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Cunning Little Vixen, Wozzeck, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and Ainadamar.

In October 2008 Mr. Rovaris conducted the Tucker Gala with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He has also conducted frequently at the Santa Fe Opera, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Glimmerglass Opera. 

Daniel Fish is a New York–based artist working across the boundaries of theater, opera, and film. He draws on a broad range of forms and subject matter including plays, film scripts, contemporary fiction, essays, and found audio. His recent work includes Michael Gordon’s Acquanetta (Prototype Festival), Don’t Look Back (The Chocolate Factory), Who Left This Fork Here (Baryshnikov Arts Center, Onassis Center), The Source (BAM Next Wave, LA Opera, San Francisco Opera), and Oklahoma! (Bard Summerscape). He previously directed Owen Wingrave for Curtis Opera Theatre.

Mr. Fish’s work has been seen at theaters and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe, including the Walker Arts Center, PuSH, Teatro Nacional D. Maria, Lisbon/Estoril Film Festival, Vooruit, Festival TransAmériques, Noorderzon Festival, the Chocolate Factory, the Public Theater’s Under The Radar, American Repertory Theater, Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College, Yale Repertory Theater, McCarter Theater, Signature Theater, The Shakespeare Theater Company, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Staatstheater Braunschweig, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has taught at the Juilliard School, Bard College, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is the recipient of the 2017 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in Theater.

 

Photos

As the opera opens, mourners have gathered for the funeral of Dinah, a suburban housewife and a principal character in Bernstein's earlier opera, Trouble in Tahiti. Dinah (Siena Licht Miller, at center in mink and sunglasses) symbolically attends her own funeral, and remains onstage throughout the opera as a silent witness to the proceedings.

Philadelphia photos: Andrew Bogard

 

Curtis alumna and Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist Ashley Milanese starred as Dede (center, in jeans), Dinah's adult daughter. Dede lives with her husband François (Jean-Michel Richer, at right), and has not seen her father, Sam, in many years.

 

Dede's son Junior (Dennis Chmelensky, center) creates a scene when he arrives late and is greeted coldly by those present. Junior lives with Dede and François, a non-traditional arrangement considering that Junior and François were once romantically involved.

 

As the funeral draws to a close, father Sam (Tyler Zimmerman, at left) is left alone with his children for the first time in over 20 years.

 

After the children reminisce for a short time, Junior, who suffers from an unnamed mental illness, begins to taunt his father with rhymes and vulgar gestures, leading to a physical altercation. Each of the family members storms away.

 

At the family home, Sam and Dede go through some of Dinah's old clothing and possessions. Dede dons one of her mother’s dresses.

 

Meanwhile François confronts Junior over his behavior at the funeral, helping Junior to realize that he loves his father and needs to mend their relationship.

 

This production makes use of video projections in the form of home movies—a poignant background as the characters reminisce about their complicated family history.

 

By the end of the opera there is still much confusion and pain among the family members, but hope for the future remains, as each recognizes that they must learn to communicate and reconcile with one another.

 

After three performances in Philadelphia, Curtis travelled to New York for a concert performance at the Kaye Playhouse. New York photos: Steven Pisano

 

 

  


A Quiet Place is sponsored in part by David and Sandy Marshall, BNP Paribas, and the Allen R. and Judy Brick Freedman Venture Fund for Opera.

The Curtis Opera Theatre season is sponsored by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.