That's how Washington Post critic Tim Page characterized the paradox of Andr_ Previn's operatic version of the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, which premiered at San Francisco Opera in 1998 with Ren_e Fleming as Blanche. (Page was reviewing the 2004 production by Washington National Opera.)
"There are few more versatile and deeply cultured musicians around than Previn ..." Page wrote, "yet, in this particular case, all of Previn's sophistication works against him. The result is an elegant, opulent, European modernist opera with an urgent, primitive and unmistakably American setting; the phrase 'cognitive dissonance' hardly begins to describe it."
Which makes one wonder just how this Streetcar would come across in Vienna, the archetypical elegant, opulent European capital and one of the cradles of musical modernism. The Theater an der Wien, the city's third — and most adventurous — opera house, has just presented the work's Austrian premiere. (They're rendering the opera's title in German as Endstation Sehnsucht — "Last Stop: Longing".)
The production, directed by Stein Winger and with Siê¢n Edwards conducting the Wiener Symphoniker, opened on February 28 and wound up last Friday (March 9). Janice Watson played Blanche du Bois, with soprano Mary Mills as her sister Stella and tenor Simon O'Neill as Mitch. Teddy Tahu Rhodes, the strapping 6'5" baritone from New Zealand, has been giving a ferocious performance as Stanley Kowalski, a role of which he has made a specialty. So check out the photos below.
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All photos © Rolf Bock.