Ballet by John Neumeier
based on Tennessee Williams

 

Music
  Serge Prokofiev
"Visions Fugitives" op. 22
Alfred Schnittke
First Symphony
Choreography
Staging
Set
Costumes
  John Neumeier

1 intermission - 2 hours

 

World Premiere
Stuttgart Ballet, Stuttgart, December 3, 1983

 

Original Cast    
Blanche DuBois
  Marcia Haydée
Stanley Kowalski
  Richard Cragun
Stella, Blanche's Sister
  Lisi Grether
Harold Mitchell (Mitch)
  Vladimir Klos
Allan Gray
  Johannes Kritzinger
Allan's Friend
  Paul Chalmer
A Soldier
  Randy Diamond
Kiefaber   Christian Fallanga
Shaw   Stephen Greenston

 

Premiere in Hamburg
The Hamburg Ballet, April 30, 1987

 

Original Hamburg Cast    
Blanche DuBois
  Colleen Scott
Stanley Kowalski
  Ivan Liska
Stella, Blanche's Sister
  Bettina Beckmann
Harold Mitchell (Mitch)
  Stephen Pier
Allan Gray
  Johannes Kritzinger
Allan's Friend
  Jean Laban
A Soldier
  Peter Bo Bendixen
Kiefaber   Eric Miot
Shaw   Gabriel Manferdini

 

On Tour
1988 Milwaukee 1989 Leverkusen 2010 Baden-Baden
2012 Hong Kong

In the Repertory
Stuttgart Ballet
The Norwegian National Ballet
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

 

Synopsis

I – BELLE REVE

Asylum

Blanche DuBois, haunted by madness and memories:
Men

Her Wedding at Belle Reve

Her husband Allan Gray

The tragic end of their wedding day

Belle Reve falls into decay

Flamingo Hotel
 

II – NEW ORLEANS

End of the line

Blanche remembers the visit to her sister Stella, in New Orleans:
Stella changed

Conflict with Stella’s husband Stanley

A rescue attempt with Stanley’s friend Mitch

Blanche’s past is laid open by Stanley

Flight – to where?

Rape

Stepping out of reality Asylum

from John Neumeier's New Orleans diary, 1983

 

To be read before the performance

While working on the "Kameliendame" a friend of mine made the spontaneous suggestion that for my next Stuttgart project I create the rôle of Blanche DuBois for Marcia Haydée. The idea of transforming "A Streetcar Named Desire" into a ballet was, in fact, never far from my mind. Every one of Tennessee Williams' works seems a possible inspiration for a new ballet in view of their essentially poetic quality.

For me "A Streetcar Named Desire" is one of the greatest works of American literature. What I find so interesting, so fascinating, about the play is that special southern atmosphere and the particular problems it deals with—specific problems of the Southern American states. "Streetcar" is a subject (and was a film) that I've been familiar with since my youth and that has formed a very important part of my own literary as well as theatrical education. A multitude of characters from Tennessee Williams' works are familiar to me. I know them well and at one point even considered creating a ballet based not just on "A Streetcar Named Desire" but on a collection of plays by Tennessee Williams. A "Tennessee Williams project"—a ballet which I would have called "The End Of The Line", in which characters from his various plays appear, meeting within a fine network of relationships linking them all to one another. But several European friends of mine warned that these figures aren't sufficiently well known outside of America to be recognized. Nonetheless, the content, the message and the inner life of all his plays can and should be understood on a universal human level. The inner life is far deeper than its "American" exterior. But precisely this exterior, his world, is unmistakably American and for that reason I couldn't imagine a stage designer who wasn't American creating the sets and costumes for this piece. Interestingly enough, the two composers I selected are Russians —but again, their music corresponds to the inner life of the piece.

As soon as the idea of the "Streetcar" ballet was born, I couldn't wait to visit New Orleans to start researching the specific atmosphere and sketching out the visual images of the new ballet. That's not to say that I imagined a realistic reconstruction of New Orleans for the stage. Quite the opposite; the story must be told essentially through movement. But it's important for me to have stood on those streetcar tracks in New Orleans, which for Blanche DuBois represented the end of the line...

My ballet is not a word for word translation of Tennessee Williams' play. "A Streetcar Named Desire" was the source of my inspiration but as a choreographer I use a completely different medium of expression. I must realize this story using visual, physical movement images. Elia Kazan's production notes regarding Blanche explain that: "We can only understand her behaviour when we come to recognize the role that her past plays in her present behaviour." Agreeing completely, I have no option but to change Tennessee Williams' chronological structure for my ballet. It is impossible to dance "the past". In ballet the past must become visible present, which is why I start where the play ends and allow Blanche once again to show us her journey, through memories and madness, to the end of her own line.

John Neumeier

Scott - Liska
 

Photos
Trailer

 
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