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The Virginia Opera once again takes a daring move, bringing its company and Fairfax County premiere production of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts tomorrow, March 1, 2013 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2 p.m. Previn’s nearly new opera, premiered by the San Francisco Opera in 1998, adds a modernist score to Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play re-creating the playwright’s famously brutal almost-love story for the musical stage.
It was presented in this area by the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center in 2004.
Those familiar with Williams’ famous drama likely experienced it first in the film version, which starred Marlon Brando as the bitter, brutish, and cynical Stanley Kowalski, a working class stiff with a chip on his shoulder the size of a steel girder. He clashes repeatedly with sister-in-law Blanche DuBois, a fast-fading, down-on-her-luck, would-be Southern belle, when she moves in with Kowalski and her sister, and their confrontation leads to almost inevitable tragedy.
Adding to the rough-hewn atmosphere of the original play was the locale in which it is set: the hot, sticky underbelly of post-World War II New Orleans where everyone and everything has a backstory and sometimes two, the kind of place where gaiety can be forced and where lives can reach rock-bottom.
In collaboration with librettist Philip Littell, Hollywood-based conductor-composer André Previn conceived of and wrote the score for his new Streetcar, his first operatic excursion. Its premiere performances in San Francisco ultimately earned Previn the Grand Prix du Disque when the original recording was released.
The Virginia Opera’s Streetcar is being directed by Sam Helfrich, who was also responsible for the direction of last season’s surprise American opera hit, Philip Glass’ “Orphée,” which amazed skeptical Fairfax operagoers here last year at about this time.
“As our production developed, stated Helfrich in a release prior to Streetcar’s, opening production in Norfolk, “we naturally became interested in the interplay among the three principal characters, and in exploring their inner lives and motivations. We all know that these are psychologically rich characters,” he continued; “and in our production, we’ve attempted to highlight the most essential elements of the situation, striving to identify the basic, primal motivations that drive the characters toward their fates.”
Soprano Kelly Cae Hogan, stars as the fragile, unstable Blanche DuBois in this production, and is joined by fellow soprano Julia Ebner who sings the role of Blanche’s sister, Stella. Both sisters must deal in their own way with the primal force of Stanley Kowalski, sung in this production by baritone David Adam Moore. Scott Ramsey adds his tenor voice to the ensemble as Blanche’s milquetoast suitor, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell.
The Virginia Symphony Orchestra will accompany the singers under the baton of Ari Pelto who is making his company debut in these performances.
As is customary, a pre-performance discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to each performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III and is sponsored by the Friends of the Center for the Arts. Since this is a new opera experience, operagoers might find it well worth their while to attend these discussions for Streetcar to gain some insight into how Previn and his music re-imagine this long-famous Southern Gothic drama.
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© Terry Ponick, 2013, The Washington Times