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Symphony catches 'Streetcar,' Previn for 2001 season

Tuesday, December 21, 1999

By Caroline Abels, Post-Gazette Cultural Arts Writer

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will stage a concert production of André Previn's opera, "A Streetcar Named Desire," in January 2001.

Previn, who served as the PSO's music director from 1976 to 1984, will return to Heinz Hall to conduct performances of his work on Jan. 12, 14 and 16. Casting has not been set.

The PSO declined to confirm the production, noting it has not announced its 2000-2001 season. It will do so in February.

"Streetcar," an operatic rendering of the Tennessee Williams play, was premiered in September 1998 by San Francisco Opera. It will be performed by New Orleans Opera and San Diego Opera this spring, in Strasbourg, France, in 2001, and in Vienna, Austria, in 2002.

The PSO will be the first group to stage a full-length concert performance of the opera, according to G. Schirmer Inc., which publishes the music to "Streetcar." Parts of the opera were performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra last summer.

Concert performances use all the music but are less elaborately staged than full-length opera productions.

"Streetcar" is one of a handful of new operas that have injected new life into the opera world lately. "A View from the Bridge," William Bolcom's opera based on Arthur Miller's play of the same name, was premiered by Lyric Opera of Chicago in October. John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby" was premiered by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City last night.

Critics at the San Francisco premiere gave "Streetcar" mixed reviews. Some called the music bland and meandering and criticized the length of the show. Others praised Previn's arias and called his use of jazz effective.

A spokesman for Pittsburgh Opera, Matthew Propst, said the company has not decided whether it will stage "Streetcar." But he noted that incoming artistic director Christopher Hahn and music director John Mauceri, who will choose the repertoire of the company's 2001-2002 season, are interested in staging new works.

"I'm sure ["Streetcar"] will be considered, and I know Pittsburgh Opera is interested in doing works of that nature," Propst said.

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