Although the image of Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski desperately bellowing “Stella!” is what comes to mind for many upon mention of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the star of the drama is Blanche DuBois.
Soprano Julie Adams, who sings the famous role (originated by Jessica Tandy on Broadway) this week in The City in the opera version of the Pulitzer- and Academy Award-winning 1947 play by Tennessee Williams, calls it “one of the greatest parts ever written for a woman in the American theater.
“It’s the most complicated role I have ever played — musically, emotionally and physically,” says Adams, 26, describing the challenge of portraying the character, a fading Southern belle with pretentious airs and very real pains who depends on the kindness of strangers, and wants “magic, not realism or the truth.”
Adams, a winner in this year’s Metropolitan Opera Council auditions, appears in the Merola Opera Program’s production of composer Andre Previn’s “Streetcar,” which features a libretto by Philip Littell.
She’ll also be wearing a dress worn by Renée Fleming, who played Blanche in San Francisco Opera’s production of the commissioned work, which premiered in 1998. (Interestingly, Merola Board Vice President Blanche Streeter recognized the dress at a costume shop sale, bought it, and gave it to Adams for her upcoming performances.)
Previn’s opera, which has the hit aria “I Want Magic,” blends many styles, from jazz to neo-romantic to Broadway to contemporary classical.
Music director Mark Morash, who conducts a newly reduced orchestration by Peter Grunberg for the Merola production, says he is pleased that the excitement of the rhythmic drive and brute force remains. But he adds, “The piece feels much more intimate, very much in keeping with the emotional fragility of Blanche.”
Stage director Jose Maria Condemi, a 1990 Merola alumnus, is heading other co-productions of the newly popular “Streetcar” at Opera Santa Barbara and Kentucky Opera.
The cast includes baritone Thomas Gunther as Stanley Kowalski, soprano Adelaide Boedecker as Stella Kowalski, tenor Casey Candebat as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonet as Eunice Bubbell, tenor Benjamin Werley as Steve Hubbell, mezzo-soprano Shirin Eskandani as the Mexican woman, and tenor Mingjie Lei as a young collector.
IF YOU GO
A Streetcar Named Desire
Presented by Merola Opera Program
Where: Everett Auditorium, 450 Church St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $25 to $45