Friday, July 11, 2014

Merola Opera: A Streetcar Named Desire

Adelaide Boedecker & Julie Adams
Photography by Kristen Loken
Thursday night I saw Merola Opera's production of André Previn's opera version of A Streetcar Named Desire. The opera sticks closely to its source, & the show's emphasis on acting & its young, dramatically convincing, cast made me feel I was sitting at a play rather than an opera. It's definitely a vehicle for the soprano playing Blanche, & Julie Adams sang with impressive stamina, consistency & commitment. Her voice has a substantial, viscous sound, & her singing was smooth & connected. She gave us soft high notes that were secure & lovely. Her physical performance was jittery, & her character was clearly under strain from mental illness right from the start. The audience gave a big ovation to her act 2 narration about the suicide of her husband.

The rest of the cast gave dedicated performances as well. Soprano Adelaide Boedecker sounded supple & bright as Stella. Her sultry post-coital vocalise accompanied by the plucking of a double bass is my favorite part of the opera. Baritone Thomas Gunther was an angry Stanley Kowalski, & his voice was focused & firm. Tenor Casey Candebat as Mitch sang with great clarity & control, & he had the most apparent Southern accent in the cast. He's a fun actor to watch, though his Mitch sometimes seemed like a 12-year-old boy. I also liked the vivid acting of Eliza Bonet as Eunice.

Chong Wang, Thomas Gunther,
Benjamin Werley, & Casey Candebat
Photography by Kristen Loken
The terrific set depicts the Kowalski's home with a grimy realism yet is also a bit dream-like. There are no black-outs between scenes, so supers dressed like Stanley's poker buddies reset the stage in full view of the audience. We get to see Stanley having sex with Stella & Blanche. There's also a lot of cigarette smoking.

The opera is mostly dialogue. There are a few arioso scenes but no full-blown arias. The music is lush, & the orchestra is kept busy providing a constant flow of colorful, melodic fragments that encompass movie score romanticism, modern dissonance & jazz. The overall mood is ominous. Mark Morash's conducting was evenly paced. The Everett Middle School Auditorium does not have a pit, so the orchestra was in the auditorium in front of the stage. I sat 6 feet from the tuba. The orchestra's bright, prominent sound overbalanced the singers.

The performance ran for 3 & 1/2 hours, including 2 intermissions. The audience was engaged throughout, though there was a loud clunk from the right side of the auditorium in a quiet moment during one of Blanche's scenes. The insistent clanging of a cow bell signaled the end of each intermission. The show will be repeated this Saturday afternoon.

§ A Streetcar Named Desire
By André Previn
Libretto by Philip Littell
New orchestral reduction by Peter Grunberg

Merola Opera Program
Conductor: Mark Morash
Director: Jose Maria Condemi

Blanche DuBois: Julie Adams
Harold “Mitch” Mitchell: Casey Candebat
Stella Kowalski: Adelaide Boedecker
Stanley Kowalski: Thomas Gunther
Eunice Hubbell: Eliza Bonet
Steve Hubbell: Benjamin Werley
Mexican Woman: Shirin Eskandani
A Young Collector: Mingjie Lei

Thursday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 12, 2 p.m.
Everett Middle School Auditorium

Thursday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.
Everett Middle School Auditorium
Merola: A Streetcar Named Desire


Civic Center said...

Three and a half frigging hours? Wow, I'm now thankful my cough got the better of me. By the way, you were quite right, Stella gets all the best music for some reason.

Axel Feldheim said...

Yup, it's a long opera. I think scene for scene it's almost the entire play.

I definitely feel like Previn identified with Stella & her sensual nature way more than he could with Blanche.

It was good to see you for at least part of the evening, at any rate!