Argentina Previn, A Streetcar Named Desire: Soloists and Orchestra / David Brophy (conductor). Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 14.5.2019. (JSJ)
Direction – Rita Cosentino
Sets – Enrique Bordolini
Costumes – Gino Bogani
Lighting – José Luis Fiorruccio
Blanche Dubois – Orla Boylan
Stella Kowalski – Sarah Jane McMahon
Stanley Kowalski – David Adam Moore
Harold Mitchel – Eric Fennell
Eunice Hubbell – Victoria Livengood
Steve Hubbell – Dario Leoncini
Tennessee William’s cheerily named 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, belies a work that is dark with raw emotions, violence and destruction. Yet its popularity is evident not only as a play but with its film and other adaptions, including the late André Previn’s opera of the same name.
The story is of a southern belle Blanche Dubois, who moves in with her then pregnant sister Stella and brother in law Stanley in their run-down New Orleans tenement, ostensibly on a leave of absence from a teaching position but in reality because she is homeless and broke after having lost the family home. There she disrupts the rhythm and domesticity of life and after Stanley uncovers her secret and tells his friend Mitch, who was intending to marry her, she sinks towards a mental breakdown.
Previn’s opera from 1995 premiered in 1998 appears to have been quite widely performed, and this new almost all Argentine production from the Teatro Colón marks its local – and as it proved, excellent – premiere.
One can imagine challenges in the staging but this was well handled by director Rita Cosentino with the single set by Enrique Bordolini comprising the three rooms of the Kowalski home – a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom – and the neighbouring Hubbell home above with its stepped entrance. With this the movements between outside and inside and within the home could be fluid and life within the home given greater visualisation. Lighting was added appropriately by José Luis Fiorruccio and the dress from local fashion designer was Gino Bogani was correct for the place and time.
The role of Blanche is a demanding one as she is on stage virtually throughout and was well handled by soprano Orla Boylan – Irish, among an otherwise US lineup – replacing the originally programmed Daniela Tabernig. Sarah Jane McMahon was a softer and sweeter Stella. But it was husband Stanley in the form of David Adam Moore with his solid baritone who was the voice of the night. Not only that but he is a fine actor with a good presence and the right physique for the role as he played it.
Eric Fennell was a correct Mitch, his voice just big enough for the theatre, while Victoria Livengood was a motherly Eunice. Dario Leoncini as neighbour Steve Hubbell, Pablo Pollitzer as the young delivery boy and Alicia Cecotti the Mexican flower girl gave appropriate interventions.
One comment, and it was applicable to all, was that the English of the text was not always intelligible at least from my location and not infrequently I found myself looking to the Spanish surtitles to follow the storyline.
On the podium was another Irish, David Brophy, whose knowledge of and affinity with the score was evident with a solid reading for all in all a worthwhile and rewarding production.
Jonathan Spencer Jones