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    A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella and Blanche
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    Anyone who is familiar with Tennessee Williams' play (or the movie adapted from it) knows that it's hardly a pick-me-up story. Loss, betrayal, drunkenness, and rape form the backbone of the plot, which fits it for tragic opera, perhaps, but not the way we're used to seeing it played out in this genre -- in long ago centuries among kings and nobles, or bathed in the romantic bohemianism of an artist's garret. In A Streetcar Named Desire, the tragedy is intimate and domestic.  

    For this kind of intimate drama to work as contemporary opera, the acting abilities of the singers is very important -- we expect to see more naturalistic performances with a certain amount of nuance and subtlety. This production succeeds on the strength of those kinds of performances from its small cast and because the Louisville Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Mechavich, handles Andre Previn's atmospheric music with such technical skill and beauty. There are jazz touches in the score, but just enough to give the flavor of New Orleans -- trombone glissandos, punches of trumpet and clarinet, a wailing saxophone to accompany Stanley's wounded howl of "Stella!" at the end of Act I. I enjoyed the balance of voices and music truly accompanying one another, woven together too with Williams' words -- the libretto by Philip Littell is extraordinarily close to the language of the play.

    Marco Cammarota was impressive in his professional debut as Mitch, bringing touches of sweetness and humor to his character, who struggles to understand the troubled Blanche Dubois. There is great chemistry between all of these actors, particularly Anya Matanovic as Stella and Wes Mason as Stanley. Mason projects the raw sexuality that attracts Stella, along with its scarier companion of hair-trigger violence. He plays him as one who barely understands his own volcanic feelings and is at a loss as to how to control them. 

    The central character of the opera is Blanche, the sister whose messy life has shipwrecked her on the dangerous shore of the Kowalski household. As Blanche, Maria Kanyova slinks and flutters, her body language suggesting a woman crumbling in on herself, supported only by booze and a fragile underpinning of fantasy. Kanyova's performance is smart and affecting, her floating soprano rich with the dreaming rapture of Blanche's madness and delusion. I thought she was superb in her final aria, "I Can Smell the Sea Air," which lingered poignantly in the mind after the final curtain.  

    Directed by Jose Maria Condemi, Streetcar will have its final performance on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. at the Brown Theater.

    [Photo Credit: Patrick Pfister]

    Selena Frye's picture

    About Selena Frye

    I'm a writer and editor living in Louisville since 1996. I'm originally from the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

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