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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Directed for video by Tom Cairns, this DVD offers a lively revival of Bernstein’s brilliant one-acter of 1952, a work that neatly spans the gap between opera and Broadway musical. In seven scenes introduced by a Prologue it focuses on a couple, Sam and Dinah, whose marriage is under strain in the artificial atmosphere of suburban America in the 1950s, as symbolized by their ‘little white house’. From the Prologue onwards their problems are commented on by a vocal trio, often singing in jazzy close harmony. In the staging, period clips heighten the atmosphere of such scenes as the Psychiatrist’s Office, where Dinah is having a consultation. Karl Dymond and Stephanie Novacek make an attractive couple, with their monologues and duets set against sharply rhythmic contributions from the vocal trio, helped by idiomatic playing from the City of London Sinfonia under Paul Daniel. Daniel is the principal contributor to a useful introduction, and Humphrey Burton, Bernstein’s official biographer, offers a 20-minute personal portrait of the composer as a supplement for the 40-minute opera.

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