A Streetcar Named Desire

I’ve never read Tennessee William’s celebrated play, A Streetcar Named Desire, nor watched the movie starring Marlon Brando. But on Tuesday evening at the Chicago Lyric Opera, we got to watch Andre Previn’s adaptation of the opera, starring Renee Fleming.

It was good – the drama was intense, and the lines intelligent. I liked the semi-staging too, with the orchestra seated on the back of the stage rather than in the pit. Pieces of furniture – rows of chairs, a table, and a bed – served to delineate the intimate confines of the Kowalski home.

I have to agree with Chicago Classical Review’s take that the “score is almost completely unmemorable. Vocal lines are cast in an unvaried conversational quasi-recitative.” While I found that the orchestral pieces served really effectively to heighten the drama, I thought the sung dialogue was superfluous, and oftentimes distracting. I had difficulty understanding what they were singing in English, and often had to rely on the surtitles. I know that the aria “I want Magic” is supposed to be a showpiece for Renee Fleming, and in fact I’ve heard her perform that aria a few times in concert… but, I just don’t get the melody. Otherwise, I really liked the orchestra pieces.

All in all though, the plot was all consuming, and the four leads, Renee Fleming, Susanna Phillips, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, and Anthony Dean Griffey, gave stirring performances.



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