A bluesy 'Streetcar Named Desire' at George Mason University Center for the Arts

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Virginia Opera's production of Andre Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire" arrives at George Mason University's Center for the Arts this week. This third installment in the company's American opera cycle is based on Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play set in New Orleans during the 1940s.

Baritone David Adam Moore makes his Virginia Opera debut in the role of Stanley Kowalski, opposite soprano Kelly Cae Hogan as Blanche DuBois. Julia Ebner is Blanche's sister, Stella, and tenor Scott Ramsay plays Blanche's suitor Harold.

"My job is to step inside Stanley to learn what he wants and needs and what matters to him," Moore said. "Everything he does makes perfect sense. He is very much a product of his background and, even though the facts aren't there, I deduce that he comes from a recent generation of Polish immigrants and grew up in a Polish community on the lower socio-economic rung that made him see things in black and white, a simple right or wrong.

"Considering where he came from, he must have blown through the ranks to become a master sergeant during the war because that takes about 10 years. He is now a climber who made it through World War II and found a beautiful girl. Then the tension begins when her sister, Miss DuBois, arrives. During the battle of Salerno, he experienced some horrors that may have caused his outbursts and aggression, but he is a young man full of vitality and love for life on his terms."

Onstage
'A Streetcar Named Desire'
» Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts
» When: 8 p.m. March 1, 2 p.m. March 3
» Info: $44 to $98; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

Moore is excited to repeat the role with the Lyric Opera of Chicago later this spring, allowing him to remain the same character for four months. He follows that as Jud Fry in that company's production of "Oklahoma." For the first 10 years of his career, he sang 30 roles without repeating, flitting from style to style and language to language. Now that he has a resume of more than 60 roles, he enjoys repeating favorites like Don Giovanni, Prior Walter in "Angels in America" and Vincent Van Gogh, a role he created in Bernard Rands's "Vincent" as a guest artist with Indiana University's Opera Theater.

To direct "A Streetcar Named Desire," VO chose the creative Sam Helfrich who is returning after directing Philip Glass' "Orphee" last season. The conductor is the renowned Ari Pelto, a veteran of major opera companies.

"I'm most excited about this production because it's not a literal translation of the play and movie," Helfrich said. "I was more interested in the characters and looking at them under a microscope, so I consciously decided to avoid watching the movie and featuring the apartment in the set. Instead, I am focusing on three objects critical to each character. The first we see is Blanche, followed by Stanley, then Stella.

"The characters will surprise the audience. I see Blanche as being much more sympathetic than she has been portrayed in the past. The music throughout tells you a lot and creates a mood about how the characters feel inside. I've asked the actors to perform their roles understatedly and to avoid making unnecessary movements to emphasize something the audience already knows. The final page of music when Blanche is being escorted to the madhouse is incredible."

Wherever Helfrich works, he puts his unique stamp on every new piece. Among his highly praised premieres are "Kepler" by Glass and "The Secret Agent" by J. D. McClatchy. Perhaps his most unusual project is one he describes as "audacious": a fully staged version of "The Messiah" with the Pittsburgh Symphony set in America during three different periods of history.

He promises, "A lot of people don't like contemporary opera as a living art form, but I think the VO audience will discover that this production of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' opera will help them to understand it in a new way by seeing it done in an environment that turns Blanche into a sympathetic character."

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Author:

Emily Cary

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner