Libretto by Philip Littell,
based on the play by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Brad Dalton
Conductor: Evan Rogister
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Tour de force performance by Renee Fleming anchors Williams’ classic drama turned opera
“Who wants real? I know I don’t want it. I want magic!” – Blanche
I have long been a admirer of Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire, the psychological drama and I always felt that Williams’ lyrical dialogue could be an opera if a suitable composer would emerge. In 1998 Andre Previn did just that, and, he wrote the features character – Blanche DuBois for Renee Fleming. That was a fine choice. Fleming inaugurated the role in San Francisco in 1998 and now has opened Streetcar at the Lyric Opera last night. Miss Fleming was terrific both as a vocal artist and as an effective actress. Her Blanche sure lived up to Previn’s faith as she weaved the psychological torments of the troubled Southern belle desperately struggling to reconcile her past and survive in the present.
Streetcar features an on-stage orchestra and a minimalist set that shifts focus on the players and the magnification flowing composition. As much as Williams’ lyrical-infused dialogue “sings,” Streetcar becomes difficult to work as an opera because it doesn’t naturally contain many arias especially with Philip Littell’s true-to-the-original libretto. But Fleming and Susanna Phillips , as Stella, and Anthony Dean Griffey, as Mitchell sure use their vocal acumen to garner all the emotions of the work. Williams’ blend of lyricism with realism sure is extolled through Previn’s brassy quiasi-Expressionist chords and the sounds of the street tone to the marvelous score.
The libretto doesn’t shy away from the sexual power of the original script as it contains references to Blanche’s gay husband and as it presents the provocative kissing the newspaper collector “on the mouth”scene. This free-flowing three hour plus production has the haunting tone and a fluid use of trumpet and solo clarinet to amplify the atmosphere and psychology of a scene. Previn demonstrates his perception of the cloudy views of reality as seen by Williams’ characters. A Streetcar Named Desire pack a wallop and must take its place as one fine contemporary operas. Renee Fleming makes Blanche her own. Too bad all four performances are sold out – Streetcar is sure worth seeing.
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago through April 4, 2013
NOTE: There will be a special performance of A Streetcar Named Desire on April 5 at the Civic Opera House as the “first ever Student Night performed by an alternate cast–$20 tickets for high school and college students and a limited number of non-student tickets for general public are $29 and $49–call 312-332-2244 orwww.lyricopera.org