Friday, June 13, 2014

"Hey, S--T--E--L--L--A ! ! !...A Streetcar runs through Kentucky"

Wes Mason (photo: Michael Cinquino)
Kentucky is playing a major role in the two upcoming performances of André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire. We realized the popularity of the piece when we posted pictures of the LA Opera's production featuring Ryan McKinny as Stanley Kowalski and Renee Fleming as Blanche DuBois. Of course, the shirtless pictures of Ryan McKinny probably helped drive the spike in views that we saw to the site.

Wes Mason (Photos: DonSoo Choi and Doug Wonder)
The first Blue Grass State connection is obvious, as the Kentucky Opera has announced two performances of the popular American opera on February 13 and 15 of next year. Stanley will be played by one of the most compelling young artists to hit the scene in recent years, Wes Mason. Mason, who is familiar to readers of this site (yes, that's him in the sidebar modeling for our official photographer), can command a stage like few others in the business. People are still talking about his tour de force performance as Reinaldo Arenas in the 2010 world premiere of Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls with the Fort Worth Opera.

This will be his debut in the role and we suspect that he'll give past Stanley's a run for their money in the beefcake department. In addition to before night falls, we've seen the pulchritudinous singer show some skin in Handels' Giulio Cesare at the Roanoke Opera and Bizet's La Tragédie de Carmen at the Syracuse Opera.

We'll have more news about the Kentucky Opera's upcoming season, which also includes Beethoven's Fidelio, Daron Hagen's Postcard from Morocco and Puccini's La fanciulla del West. Visit their website for additional information.

Thomas Gunther in Dead Man Walking
The other connection to Kentucky is Thomas Gunther, who studied at the University of Kentucky and lives in Lexington. He's no stranger to barihunk roles, having performed Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen, Le mari in Poulenc's Le Mamelles de Tirésias and Joseph DeRocher in Heggie's Dead Man Walking.

Gunther is part of the prestigious Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, where the original work was premiered on September 19, 1998 with Renée Fleming and barihunk Rod Gilfry as Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski. Remarkably, this is the first revival of the opera in San Francisco since its premiere.

The Merola production will use a version for reduced orchestra prepared by Peter Grunberg and conducted by Mark Morash. The staging will be by director José Maria Condemi. The opera will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 10, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 12.

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