Trouble in Tahiti at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival 2011 (review)

Well, here it is! My first Vancouver International Fringe Festival 2011 review! The season is officially open, so get ready for an avalanche of Fringe-related stuff in the next week or so on

Last evening I attended the media premiere of the Vancouver Concert Opera Co-Operative production of Trouble in Tahiti. As a reminder of the story, check out our preview post.

I’ve never been to the Firehall Arts Centre before… but then I haven’t been many places in this town yet, so it’s not so surprising. The space was nicely set up, with a piano in the corner for the musician who plays ALL the music by herself. The decor was minimal but effective: two chairs, two side tables and a background showing views of Vancouver.

The story is simple and accessible: a Vancouver suburban couple, together for ten years, realize how they’ve grown apart and try to figure out a way to reignite the spark. He goes to work and the gym, she goes to her psychoanalyst and a movie. They meet at lunch time, each lying about meeting someone at a restaurant although they’re both going alone, separately. Outside of the couple, there’s a “trio”, the equivalent of a chorus, who set up the story and make comments throughout the opera.


Photo credit: Vince Hemingson. Used with permission.

The story is a bittersweet blend of humourous and sad, funny and tragic; we all know this story, some of us have seen our parents go through this (me included) and yet the open ending leaves you with a sense of hope. It’s a sad but realistic view of a couple’s life after a decade of marriage.

In most operas, the plot is really simple and is just a vehicle for the music anyway, so let’s focus on that. First, the jazzy music is from a single piano, played live by a very talented musician. It can’t be easy to manage five people singing to your music, so kudos. The singers were all very talented, but unfortunately the space of the Firehall Arts Centre isn’t the best to showcase opera voices. I do understand, however, that very few companies can afford an actual concert space, and the Firehall is small enough that the voices aren’t lost.

Lighting and effects were very simple, almost minimal; the addition of the background screen helped contextualize each setting so we would know where each character was. The chorus participates actively in the funniest scenes like the gym and the movie. The kids in the audience seemed to love those!

If you’ve wanted to try an opera but never dared go to one because it seemed inaccessible, Trouble in Tahiti is probably the best introduction. It’s in English, it’s accessible and it’s very short (40 minutes). For more seasoned opera and musical lovers, Trouble in Tahiti is very rarely performed and so it might be your only chance to get a glimpse of Leonard Bernstein’s (creator of West Side Story) early work.

The show left me touched and sad, a good sign that the singers conveyed the emotions well. I had a great time and I recommend it to opera newbies and buffs alike.

Disclaimer: I (Anabelle) attended the media premiere of Trouble in Tahiti on media tickets graciously provided by Vancouver Concert Opera Co-operative. We were not otherwise compensated for our review, nor was a positive one expected. Raul always maintains editorial control over content published on

Read all of our Vancouver International Fringe Festival 2011 coverage here.

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  3. The Sparrow + The Mouse at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival (Review)
  4. Fortunate Son at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival 2011 (review)
  5. Trouble in Tahiti – Vancouver International Fringe Festival 2011 (giveaway)

Comments (1)

[...] 3.5 hours to kill between the media premiere of Trouble in Tahiti, a play for Fringe (see my review here) and my boyfriend coming in town for the weekend, so I headed downtown for a bit of window [...]

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