André Previn brings Tennessee Williams’ characters to the opera stage. See the elevated emotions of Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski like never before. A Streetcar Named Desire is an opera in three acts by André Previn and Phillip Littell based on the play by Tennessee Williams. It made its debut on October 11, 1989 at the San Francisco Opera. This is the first time the Kentucky Opera has performed this work which will be sung in English with supertitles above the stage.
TIME: 1940s PLACE: New Orleans
ACT ONE Scene 1 Blanche DuBois has suffered the loss of both her ancestral home and her job when she arrives in New Orleans to visit her sister, Stella, who has married Stanley Kowalski, an ex-GI trucker.
Scene 2. A few days later Stanley, infuriated by Blanche’s artificial airs, her suggestive behavior, and what he regards as her loss of his wife’s birthright, is determined to expose the lies about her past—which is more tragic and sordid than he is able to imagine.
Scene 3. That night During a poker game Blanche meets Harold Mitchell (Mitch), a workmate of Stanley’s, very much tied to his mother’s apron strings. Blanche sets her sights on him. Stanley, drunk, breaks up the evening and strikes Stella, whom he regards as siding against him with Blanche. After this violence, and against Blanche’s advice, Stella returns to Stanley’s bed. The next morning Stanley overhears Blanche entreating her sister to leave him.
ACT TWO Scene 1. Some weeks later Stanley tells Stella that he has a friend who is making inquiries about Blanche in her hometown of Laurel. When he and his now-pregnant wife go out for the evening, Blanche makes a sad and half-hearted attempt to seduce a young paper boy. She later goes out with Mitch on a date.
Scene 2. That night Mitch unburdens his heart to Blanche who, in turn, tells him of her brief marriage to a young homosexual and how she blames herself for his suicide.
ACT THREE Scene 1. Some weeks later, Blanche’s birthday Mitch is late for the party. Stanley, who feels that his home and marriage are both threatened by Blanche, breaks up the celebration when he reveals that his friend has discovered Blanche’s unsavory reputation in Laurel for seducing young men, and the fact that she had been told to leave town. He hands Blanche a one-way ticket back home and tells her that Mitch now knows everything and will not be corning around again. Thus begins the fragmentation of Blanche’s mind.
Scene 2. Later that night Stella has been taken to a hospital for a premature delivery. Mitch, drunk, invades the apartment and bitterly reproaches Blanche: Just as her desperate hopes lie with him, his lay with her. They have both lost their emotional refuge. His denunciation of her as someone too unclean to enter his mother’s house and the appearance of a Mexican woman selling flowers for the dead are the triggers that start to unhinge Blanche’s mind.
Scene 3. Later This fragmentation is completed when Stanley, as a last act of cruel retribution, rapes Blanche.
Scene 4. Some days later Blanche prepares to leave for a visit to a fictitious old admirer. In fact Stella, unable to believe in Blanche’s accusations against Stanley, is packing Blanche’s clothes for her to take to the asylum when the doctor arrives. Now she depends—in a new, not promiscuous way—on “the kindness of strangers.”
This Synopsis was written by the late Colin Graham, who directed the world premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, and is reproduced here with the permission of San Francisco Opera.