A Streetcar Named Desire

A Ballet by John Neumeier

March 3 – 7, 2021

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Ballet by John Neumeier

March 3 – 7, 2021

 Overview 

Tennessee Williams received the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his gritty Broadway play, A Streetcar Named Desire. Richly characterized and simmering with violence, the story follows the demise of Blanche DuBois, a southern belle transplanted in a hostile, impoverished landscape she cannot accept. John Neumeier, the brilliant Artistic Director of The Hamburg Ballet, created a striking adaptation of Streetcar for ballet in 1983, forgoing chronology to delve deep inside the mind of the play’s tortured heroine.

The Story

Blanche DuBois travels from Laurel, Mississippi to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella following the loss of their family plantation, Belle Reve, and the suicide of her young husband, Allan. Stella lives in a dilapidated apartment with her husband Stanley Kowalski, whose brutish behaviour is a foil for Blanche’s affectations. Their clash culminates in assult and escalates Blanche’s mental deterioration until she is committed to an asylum. 

Five Things to Know
  1. Acclaimed performances and adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire have made the story an enduring part of the popular imagination. Among the most famous is Elia Kazan’s 1951 film starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando.
     
  2. Neumeier’s adaptation is not a chronological retelling of the story. He starts where the play ends, with Blanche staring blankly from her bed in an institution. This powerful tableau then gives way to remembered events of Belle Reve and the apartment in New Orleans as Neumeier looks deeply at Blanche’s inner life.
     
  3. Neumeier is not only the choreographer of Streetcar, he also designed the costumes, sets and lighting. He renders Belle Reve with plantation shutters and columns that gradually collapse in reference to a dying past and in Stella’s apartment, he conveys the constant threat of violence with a large, centrally placed bed.
     
  4. Streetcar is a ballet in two acts, each with a different score. The first features Sergei Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, Op. 22 which suits Blanche’s reflective mood. The second act is set to the music of Alfred Schnittke, a fitful blend of ragtime and improvisation that underscores Blanche’s deteriorating mental state.
     
  5. The National Ballet of Canada is one of the largest repositories of Neumeier’s work in North America. Most recent acquisitions include Anna Karenina, based on Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel, The Seagull, based on Anton Chekhov’s play, and Nijinsky which evokes the life of legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

Streetcar Named Desire View Gallery

The Creator

Born in Milwaukee, John Neumeier is a leading international choreographer with a diverse body of work, much of it focused on preserving ballet tradition within a modern dramatic framework. He was a dancer with Stuttgart Ballet and Director of Ballett Frankfurt before joining The Hamburg Ballet as Director and Chief Choreographer in 1973.

The Composer

Russian-born Sergei Prokofiev was one of the major composers of the 20th century, known and celebrated for his symphonies, operas, piano sonatas and ballets, notably Romeo and Juliet and Peter and the Wolf, widely considered his masterpieces.

Alfred Schnittke was a Russian composer renowned for developing the technique of “polystylism,” by which he juxtaposed elements from different musical periods. His vast oeuvre includes symphonies, concertos, film scores and the ballet Peer Gynt.

Reviews

“ ★★★★/4 Inspired… splendidly intense and expressive… extravagant psychodrama” — Toronto Star

“Neumeier's work is full of atmosphere, pathos and affecting choreography” — The Globe and Mail

A Streetcar Named Desire is exciting, provocative and raw. It will take your breath away.” — BroadwayWorld.com

“John Neumeier’s A Streetcar Named Desire reminds us what a dramatic storyteller the great choreographer truly is. Neumeier has taken the essence of the Tennessee Williams play and explored its backstory” — Ballet Review

Credits

Choreography, Costume, Set and Lighting Design:
John Neumeier

Music:
Sergei Prokofiev and Alfred Schnittke

A Streetcar Named Desire is made possible by the generous support of The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation and The Producers’ Circle.

The Producers’ Circle: Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Inger Bartlett & Marshal Stearns, Susanne Boyce & Brendan Mullen, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Charitable Foundation, Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M., Emmanuelle Gattuso, C.M. and Allan Slaight, C.M., The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Rosamond Ivey, Hal Jackman Foundation, Anna McCowan Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Judith & Robert Lawrie, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry & Joan Lozinski, The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Lynda & Jonas Prince, Susan Scace & Arthur Scace, C.M., Q.C., Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan, Sandra Simpson and Noreen Taylor, C.M. & David Staines, C.M., O.Ont.

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