Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Andre Previn, Renée Fleming, Elizabeth Futral|
Previn - A Streetcar Named Desire / Fleming, Futral, Gilfry, Griffey, SF Opera, Previn
This Deutsche Grammophon recording stems from San Francisco Opera's 1998 premiere production of André Previn's opera based on the harrowing Tennessee Williams play, with the composer himself at the helm of a strong and sup... more »
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This Deutsche Grammophon recording stems from San Francisco Opera's 1998 premiere production of André Previn's opera based on the harrowing Tennessee Williams play, with the composer himself at the helm of a strong and supportive cast. Previn's eclectic style embraces rather than challenges operatic conventions. He evokes Williams's New Orleans setting through loping, jazz-tinged motives and wistful, asymmetrical commentaries from solo winds and brass. By contrast, Previn reveals the protagonists' sense of longing and alienation by way of lyrical set pieces scored with lush economy. Philip Littell's libretto emerges at a leisurely gait, while the music underscores and follows the action with dramatic restraint instead of leaping center stage. Similarly, the cast's Southern accents are distinct but never distracting. Renée Fleming handles Blanche's taxing tessitura with effortless aplomb, although she sacrifices diction for tone in her middle register. Elisabeth Futral's light, agile soprano suits Stella's vulnerability to a fare-thee-well, while Rodney Gilfrey is careful to a fault in not letting Stanley Kowalski lapse into caricature. Most valuable player award, however, goes to Anthony Dean Griffey, who infuses Blanche's wooer Mitch with immense dignity and a sense of need. Stage noises and between-numbers applause may enhance the recording's sense of occasion, but they distract as much as those few niggling instances of thin string tone and shaky intonation. That's why God invented studio patching sessions. Still, Streetcar proves a solid achievement overall, priced at three discs for two, with full texts and annotations. --Jed Distler
IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS -- THIS IS MODERN OPERA AT ITS BEST
An Historian | Boston, MA USA | 02/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Those who reject opera since Turandot are not the best people to judge new works! Previn's entry into opera only makes me regret he did not come to the genre sooner. STREETCAR is a gripping, powerful work with an intelligently adapted libretto and a brilliantly effective score. The performances of singers and orchestra in this recording of the world-premiere are uniformly outstanding. Renee Fleming -- for whom the part of Blanche was specifically written -- stands out for her stunning voice and strong dramatic instincts, but Gilfrey, Futral and Griffey are each outstanding in their respective roles.Previn stands with Harbison, Bolcom and others as (I hope) the vanguard of a new wave of strong modern operas. Previn's score is grounded in traditional music (no John Cage absurdities of silence, noise, pointless repetitions, etc., all those self-consciously 'artistic' foolishnesses that have ruined so much modern art) yet he pushes the boundaries of tonality in interesting and exciting ways, integrating a New Orleans setting of Jazz without letting it dominate his classical treatment of his score.This is opera evolving from twentieth-century masters such as Britten and Barber. If you like them, you certainly should like this.Also consider the DVD of this same performance! (Though the CD includes a libretto, and the DVD does not include subtitles; as in any sung performance, you sometimes miss some of the words, though the singers' diction is very good.)"
Calling Leonard Bernstein
eureka treasures | Washington DC area | 09/16/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Streetcar Named Desire is the most operatic of plays and one of my all-time favorite plays. I think it would make a terrific opera. But unfortunately this isn't it. Andre Previn's previous Musical Theatre works include several lackluster shows: Coco and Good Companions. They were both moderately agreeable but plainly derivative and neither one of them was successful.
I was hoping Streetcar would prove an exception. But for me it only confirms the shallowness of Previn's musical imagination. Once again we get a pale imitation of other people's work. This opera sounds like a rip off of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah--- accompanied by some phony, cliched 1950's jazz soundtrack music. This was the general consensus among critics when the show debuted and I concur.
Oh sure, there are some effective moments like Stella's bedroom music, Mitch's big aria and the finale--- but where is the real passion and beautiful melody this story cries out for? Renee Fleming is in splendid form as a singer but I am sorry... I just don't see Blanche Du Bois as a loud mouthed belter. For God's sake, she's supposed to be a fragile creature who has been crushed by the brutality of the world. If this is not made explicit, then all the pathos disappears and the power of this great work is lost. I'm afraid Fleming's Blanche is far too robust to be seen as fragile. Her acting skills are simply not strong enough to convince me that she is teetering on the twilight edge of reality. Fleming's Blanche seems like a cheesy hustler trying to con Mitch into marrying her.
Leonard Bernstein might have been able to create a masterpiece with this material but I'm afraid Previn is out of his league. He has all the right ambitions, but after watching and listening to this I have to agree with the majority of the original reviewers that he will never be known as anything but an "also-ran.""
Better listening than watching
eureka treasures | 06/15/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The PBS telecast of Streetcar was excrutiating to watch, plodding and dull. But, when I spent some time with this recording, I was delighted by the beauty of the voices and the lovely if not profound music. Then, again, how often is opera profound? It may well be that this work will suffer on stage because it requires better actors than the singers can be or better singers than the appropriate actors can be. The music is fine. And, this recording is very sensuous. Worth a listen if not a look."