Dinah and Sam seemingly have the perfect 1950s marriage. It's a different story behind the scenes.

Look to "The Trio" to find out how things are perceived and how they really are when the LSU Opera opens Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti" on Nov. 16.

"We're like a Greek chorus," says Anthony Jones, a baritone. "We're on stage most of the time, and when we're not together we play different parts. … We set the scene. Sometimes you'll see the trouble while we sing about how everything is perfect. It's irony — we're like a TV commercial."

Bernstein was daring to show a flaw in the American dream.

While The Trio — Jones, soprano Ashlyn Carter and tenor Joshua Ognenoff — provide commentary, Sam and Dinah live their lives through the seven scenes making up this one-act opera.

The production premiered in 1952 and not only took a critical look at marriage but American suburbia as a whole.

"The story takes place in one day," says director Dugg McDonough. "The title is a metaphor for trouble in paradise, with 'Tahiti' being a paradise island. Dinah goes to see a movie called 'Trouble in Tahiti' at the beginning of the opera, and she and Sam are going to see it at the end."

McDonough promises a happy yet imperfect ending.

"The opera is Bernstein's purest opera," McDonough says. "The trio sings jazz and the characters sing in an operatic style, and the two styles come together perfectly."

Sam and Dinah are lonely despite being married and are unable to communicate their feelings.

"It's a wonderful piece," McDonough says. "It shows us that there can be some darkness in the American dream, yet there's still hope in that darkness."


'Trouble in Tahiti'

An LSU Opera production

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16, 3 p.m. Nov. 18.

WHERE: Claude L. Shaver Theatre, LSU Music and Dramatic Arts Building, Dalrymple Drive

ADMISSION: $32; $22 seniors; $17 students with valid LSU ID

TICKETS/INFO: (225) 578-3527 or lsu.edu/cmda

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.