St. Louisans have seen the play "A Streetcar Named Desire." Now they have an opportunity to see the opera.
Quoting an original 1947 New York Daily News review of Tennessee Williams’ play, director Chris Limber said the reviewer pointed out “the tragic overtones of grand opera.”
Nearly 50 years later, composer André Previn was asked to turn the play into an opera. According to soprano Katherine Giaquinto, who plays Stella Kowalski in the Union Avenue Opera production, Previn responded: “The time it’ll take me to say yes is as long as it takes for me to hang up the phone.”
But it turned out to be a little more difficult. Williams’ family requested that the opera not include duets or ensemble pieces.
“Our best guess, when we talk about it, is that they wanted it to remain as close to the original dialogue of the play,” Giaquinto said.
Previn felt limited by the request. Giaquinto calls the opera’s only “near duet” a “situational crunch of two characters in different mental spaces.”
The story is familiar to many: Southern belle Blanche DuBois (soprano Lacy Sauter) flees to the New Orleans home of her sister, Stella, and brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski (baritone Bernardo Bermudez). Blanche struggles with Stella and Stanley’s volatile relationship, as well as her own demons, including alcoholism, delusions of grandeur and her husband’s suicide.
“It’s a very modern opera that has its very own way of presenting a story,” Limber said. “Previn has done some really amazing things that are different from traditional opera, which Union Avenue tends to do a lot, and very well.”
This is the 20th season for the Union Avenue Opera. “A Streetcar Named Desire” opens on Aug. 1; before the Aug. 1 and 8 performances, Webster University music professor Glen Bauer will discuss the opera’s music and story.
Union Avenue Opera’s season concludes Aug. 22, 23, 29 and 30 with the St. Louis premiere of “Siegfried,” the third opera in Jonathan Dove’s adaptation and reduction of Wagner’s “Ring” Cycle.
Union Avenue Opera presents André Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire"
8 p.m. Aug. 1, 2, 8 and 9, 2014
Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Blvd., St. Louis
For more information, call (314) 361-2881 or visit unionavenueopera.org