Now I've been trying to convince Mrs. B to go to Virginia Opera in Norfolk for years. And she has always resisted my blandishments on the grounds that opera is snobbish and impenetrable. But out of the blue on Saturday a collegue of hers called and asked if we wanted to go on Sunday as she had season tickets she couldn't use. And finally my wife's eye for a bargain over came her other reservations. You can't turn down free tickets after all.
And so yesterday we finally found ourselves at the Harrison Opera house in Norfolk for a performance of Andre Previn's operatic adaptation of Tennesee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" premiered in 1998.
I was actually a little tentative myself as like many Brits of my age I best remember Previn for his BBC series 'Andre Previn's Music Night' of popular classics with the LSO and even more for his guest appearance on the Morecombe and Wise Christmas Special in the early 70's. But I was pleasantly surprised. For all Previn's movie and jazz background this is a real opera not an overwrought musical. Lets face it if your looking for something 'operatic' in 20th century drama then Tennesee Williams is a pretty good bet. For a late 20th century opera its no Nixon In China but it it was interesting.
The Harrison turns out to be a nice little house with good sightlines and nice acoustic. I had forgotten how good a live orchestra sounds and how pleasurable it is to immerses one's self in that vocal world. A recording doesnt have the same effect as great a performance as you might be listening to.
The show is simply designed, as you need to do when your going to move it between the theatres, nicely played under Ari Pelto and cleanly and confidently sung by the whole cast. Special mention though for tenor Scott Ramsey singing Mitch Mitchell the quiet man caught up between Blanche, Stanley and Stella and the one left most desolate at the close.
As a taste of the opera here is Rene Fleming singing Blanches closing aria "I can smell the sea air" from the premiere production at San Francisco Opera. conducted by the composer.
Mrs.B still thinks the vast majority of opera goers are totally up there own backsides and based on this crowd its a reasonable view. But she does now want to go to Sweeney Todd next year Indeed she wants a box! But I'm dropping hints about La Nozze Di Figaro for my birthday.
One can but try.
And on the subject of the composer here is "Andrew Preview" with the much missed Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise from 1971. I couldn't resist and Previn does play his part like a trouper.