Opera House, Tallinn
May 31, 2018
It was such a treat to see A Streetcar Named Desire again after a gap of several years and to remember what a wonderful ballet it is. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, choreographer, and Nancy Meckler, stage director, have reshaped Tennessee Williams’ complex set of characters into a work that flows with page-turning intensity and brings the story to life in eloquent choreography. Luana Georg, in the role of Blanche DuBois, retires from the company this season after 20 years on the stage and left on an emotional high.
The team of Meckler and Ochoa have created a full-bodied narrative with meticulous detail that, amazingly, never seems cluttered. The set, designed by Niki Turner, is stark but populated with dozens of crates that stack, build and form surfaces for projections like that of the DuBois’ stately plantation villa which crumbles to dust in a highly dramatic moment. Peter Salem’s music so evocative and full of ambience, hits just the right note with the inclusion of ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon’.
Blanche, is a victim of genteel poverty in a period when the pressure on a young girl to become the perfect wife was immense. She keeps up her outward pretensions in neat balletic affectation while inside she is destroyed by alcohol and damaging relationships with a series of men. She is truly the moth fluttering too close to the flame and Georg portrays both the ladylike exterior and the inner turmoil in powerful dance and heart-breaking poignancy. Her duet cum trio with husband Alan, Jevgeni Grib, and his boyfriend, Andrea Fabbri, tells it like it is in a gaze that is held just too long or bodies that linger just too close. Alan’s suicide is an offstage shot and his ghost in bloodstained shirt haunts her for the rest of her life, ultimately returning with a cohort of men from the past as she dances out her delusion in a cerise ball gown, the desperate travesty of a ruined life.
Her sister, Stella DuBois, is a gift of a role for Marta Navasardyan. She is a free, uncomplicated spirit who grabs what life has to offer and loves her man despite his faults. She and husband Stanley, Anatoli Arhangelski, get the most passionate of pas de deux at the end of the first act. It is amazing how sexy the upholstered underwear of the 50s can look on the right body. Arhangelski, a powerful dancer took a while to claim his alpha male status but once established he held the stage, decimating the fragile Blanche in a final act of revenge.
As Mitch, Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s last hope as husband material, Sergei Upkin, gave a sensitive and revealing portrait. There were touches of comedy in his gauche courtship and real pain when the truth of Blanche’s past is revealed. The ensemble too has a share of the action, playing the many characters in this busy narrative. The strength of Ochoa’s choreography is evident in both the principal characters and the numerous minor roles, notably Ketlin Oja as Young Blanche and John Halliwell as the Maitre D who were outstanding, but she also enjoys breakout time with the club scenes and prissy wedding guests before closing with a sombre corps of flower sellers each silenced with a red flower clenched in their teeth. The ballet is an excellent choice for the Estonian Ballet, who relished the opportunity to show both dance and dramatic skills.