A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Review – Musical Magic Transforms Tragic

“They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!” Blanche says as she arrives at the squalid apartment of her sister Stella and her brutish husband Stanley Kowalski.


Blanche Du Bois has just arrived in New Orleans and is describing her trip to her sister’s apartment. The place names hold obvious metaphorical value: Elysian Fields, the Kowalskis’ street, is named for the land of the dead in Greek mythology. 


An allegory for death, degradation, loss, humiliation, Blanche Du Bois’s arrival at Elysian Fields is filled with foreboding. This is Blanche’s personal hell where she must face the consequences of the choices she has made in her life. It is not a destination at all.  She is embarking on a musical journey where her life decisions are played out in remarkably beautiful music despite the grief and personal demons she must face.


The beauty, complexity and emotional power of the André Previn’s music is remarkable because it conquers so many challenges. Capturing Williams’ script musically could have been monotonous recitative.  But Lofti Mansouri, general director of the San Francisco Opera from 1988 to 2001, who conceived the idea, described the how Streetcar should sound:

“I didn’t want twelve-tone. I wanted a gorgeous piece of musical theater, accessible but not tacky––written for an audience, not academia.”


Mansouri wanted beautiful music and he got it. A Streetcar Named Desire soars more than Stanley roars.  It is a work of magic—just what Blanche would want.


What an unforgettable experience it was to be in the audience for this opera!  Lyric’s production of Streetcar succeeds on every level, starting, of course, with that outstanding music.


The acting—with the incredible Renée Fleming for whom the role was created —is mesmerizing.


The minimalistic set complete with the orchestra on stage reinforces the cramped living conditions and the sense of no privacy. No wonder Blanche took so many baths! How else could she get away and sooth her nerves?


And the costumes—right down toStanley’s torn tee-shirt—created an organic, gritty, realistic world where Blanche wouldn’t, couldn’t fit. No magic could survive in that apartment.


Lyric’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire is a landmark artistic event.  How wonderful it is that Lyric is making it possible for Chicago students to experience it! 


Lyric Opera of Chicago presents its first-ever Student Night – a special performance of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire for high-school and college students on Friday, April 5, at 7:30 pm. Student tickets are $20. Limited non-student tickets available for general public, $29 and $49.


The semi-staged presentation with the Lyric Opera Orchestra onstage features singers Beverly O’Regan Thiele (Blanche), Kiera Duffy (Stella), David Adam Moore (Stanley), Scott Ramsay (Mitch), and Victoria Livengood (Eunice). Evan Rogister conducts this presentation, which is directed by Brad Dalton. The opera is based on the legendary play by Tennessee Williams.


While regular performances of A Streetcar Named Desire  are sold out other than limited turnback/donations, a limited number of non-student tickets are also available for the general public to attend the April 5 performance: $29/balcony seats and $49/main floor and box seats.


This one-night-only event takes place at the Civic Opera House (20 N. Wacker Drive).


For further information call 312.332.2244 or www.lyricopera.org.  Regular performances of A Streetcar Named Desire (April 3, 6) are sold out.


This presentation is part of Lyric Unlimited, a multifaceted program of expanded community engagement and artistic initiatives aimed at exploring ways in which opera can resonate with individuals and communities.


Special Lyric Opera presentation of A Streetcar Named Desire generously made possible by The Hurvis Charitable Foundation and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Performance for students made possible by Lead Sponsor Dr. Scholl Foundation. Cosponsors: An Anonymous Donor, John and Rosemary Brown, General Mills Foundation, The Gerda Lissner Foundation, Linda K. and Dennis M. Myers, Carol Prins and John Hart, the Segal Family Foundation, and the Bill and Orli Staley Foundation.


Photos: Todd Rosenberg




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