Review: Andre Previn's 'Streetcar' makes it to NYC
This March 14, 2013 publicity photo provided by Carnegie Hall shows Susanna Phillips, Soprano as Stella Kowalski, left, and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Baritone as Stanley Kowalski, in a scene from Andre Previn's , "A Streetcar Named Desire," in the Stern Auditorium, at Carnegie Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Carnegie Hall, Richard Termine)
NEW YORK (AP) — Andre Previn's opera version of "A Streetcar Named Desire" finally made it to New York — 15 years after its world premiere.
It is interesting. It has moments. But it is far from compelling.
Previn's adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, with a libretto by Philip Littell, returned for Thursday night's semistaged concert performance at Carnegie Hall with Renee Fleming, who sang Blanche Dubois at the San Francisco Opera's world premiere production.
This "Streetcar" meanders along for much of the first two acts, more words with background music than music that drives the drama. Only in the final half-hour of the third act does the opera really take off.
Previn's score for his first opera is most successful during its jazzier moments, when horns and the clarinet take prominence and give the boozy, detached feel of Blanche. The music conveys her struggle to both integrate and differentiate her alternate reality from the world around her in the New Orleans home of her sister and brother-in-law. There are echoes of Britten and a short segment meant to remind the audience of the presentation of the rose in Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier."
The arias seem to be plopped in rather than flowing extensions of the drama. Stella's first-act "I can hardly stand it" is the most natural, an explanation of what attracts her to her husband. Mitch's "I'm not a boy" in the second act and Blanche's "I want magic!" and "I can smell the sea air" in the third are fine musical showpieces but come off as Shakespearean soliloquies that are inert segments failing to flow from what precedes and stream into what follows.
This March 14, 2013 publicity photo provided by Carnegie Hall shows Renée Fleming, Soprano as Blanche DuBois, in a scene from Andre Previn's, "A Streetcar Named Desire," in the Stern Auditorium, at Carnegie Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Carnegie Hall, Richard Termine)
Blanche is a natural for the 54-year-old Fleming, soaring vocal lines fitting her lyric soprano. Coming back to the role years later, Fleming inhabits the role with a deeper understanding of Blanche than she did in the original run.
Anthony Dean Griffey also returned, displaying a sweet tenor and Mitch's awkwardness and yearning.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes was a menacing Stanley Kowalski, his bald head and tattoo on his left arm in stark contrast to Fleming in Johann Stegmeir's glamorous dresses. Bare-chested or in a tank top for much of the evening, Rhodes walked with a hulking bluntness, and his baritone seethed with contempt.