A Streetcar Named Desire is an opera composed by André Previn with a libretto by Philip Littell in 1995. It is based on the play by Tennessee Williams.
The opera received its premiere at the San Francisco Opera, September 19 – October 11, 1998. It was conducted by André Previn, and was directed by Colin Graham, with sets by Michael Yeargan. It quickly developed into one of the most widely played contemporary operas. The original production was released on CD and DVD.
Blanche DuBois – Renée Fleming
Stanley Kowalski – Rod Gilfry
Stella Kowalski – Elizabeth Futral
Harold "Mitch" Mitchell – Anthony Dean Griffey
Eunice Hubbel – Judith Forst
Steve Hubbel – Matthew Lord
Newspaper Collector – Jeffrey Lentz
The Mexican – Josepha Gayer
Pablo Gonzales – Luis Oropeza
The Doctor – Ray Reinhardt
The Nurse – Lynne Soffer
In a review of the premiere in The New York Times, Bernard Holland observed:
A Streetcar Named Desire is so operatic as a play that one wonders why more than 50 years have passed since its Broadway opening with no opera of note being made of it. ….The new setting of Tennessee Williams's play, with music by André Previn and a libretto by Philip Littell, answered a few questions and asked others.... First of all, it sings very well. Mr. Previn has a fine ear for voices. He knows how to flatter and coax it and send it gracefully from one musical episode to the next ... one had the impression that Mr. Previn had been writing for the musical theater all his life.
Regarding the music, Holland noted:
There are angry clashes of harmony and key, many Straussian gestures, sweet-as-honey popular melody and the kinds of corporate noodling and mumbling among the strings native to a Ligeti or a Penderecki. Mr. Previn is not ashamed to incorporate Hollywood code words, especially the wailing thrusts of saxophone, trumpet and clarinet to introduce dissolution and lurid sex.
Holland commented on the principal singers as follows:
[A]s beautifully as Renée Fleming sings and as assiduously as she pursues the part, she leaves a hole in the opera that nothing around it can fill. Ms. Fleming does everything an opera singer can do, but I am not sure that Blanche is a character that opera can ever reach. As Stanley in a baritone part, Rodney Gilfry sings strongly and summons the necessary physical menace. Elizabeth Futral made Stella a satisfying operatic character (and) Anthony Dean Griffey sang touchingly and surely in the tenor role of Mitch.
Other reviews have criticized the lengthy libretto (reportedly the Williams estate required a close following of the play), music that does not advance the characters or action, and does not much suggest New Orleans of the 1940s. A shorter version was produced in San Francisco in 2007.
Subsequent U.S. performances of A Streetcar Named Desire were given in New Orleans (1999–2000); San Diego (2000); Washington, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas (2002); Virginia and Chicago (2013), St. Louis (2014), Cleveland (2015), and Honolulu (2017).
The European premiere took place at the Opéra national du Rhin, Strasbourg, France. The opera had its London premiere in June 2003 in a semi-staged version at the Barbican, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Prévin. Much of the original cast reprised their roles, and Janice Watson replaced Elizabeth Futral as Stella.
Opera Ireland presented the work in November 2006 in Dublin. Theater an der Wien, Vienna performed the opera in 2007, with a cast including Janice Watson as Blanche, Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Stanley and Mary Mills as Stella. Opera Australia performed the piece as well, in Sydney and Melbourne, under the musical direction of Richard Hickox with Yvonne Kenny as Blanche.
Other performances have been given in St. Gallen, Switzerland (Theater St. Gallen); Giessen, Germany; Turin, Italy; and Tokyo, Japan.