The puns are irresistible — as Stella-for-star in Opera Australia's Streetcar, Antoinette Halloran is just that. A star. Or rather, a star. Just Google antoinette halloran streetcar and on the very first page, you'll see all the raves. "The standout performance was Antoinette Halloran's." "The star of the show is undoubtedly Antoinette Halloran." "Antoinette Halloran is outstanding." You'll also see my words: "Antoinette Halloran is a revelation."
All of it true. Alongside three singers with well-established and glittering international careers, Antoinette — whose name still seems always to come prefaced with the words "rising soprano" — not only holds her own but creates perhaps the biggest sensation of the four of them. No mean feat when you've Teddy in his shirtlessness to compete with. She is helped somewhat, it's true, by Previn's writing for Stella, which is among the most immediately appealing music in the opera. Elizabeth Futral, for whom the role was written, also steals the show on Deutsche Grammophon's recording of the premiere.
Nevertheless, that only goes so far. What makes Antoinette's performance special is Antoinette herself. Her Stella is a tour de force, vividly characterised and stunningly well sung. She breezes through Previn's challenging music as if to the manner born, combining a crystal clear upper register with a wealth of darker, more sensuous colours. Sweet yet strong, just like Stella. In "I can hardly stand it" she moves between radiant, youthful adoration and a more explicit and adult longing; the raw power with which she imbues the word "wild" is startling. The brief Act Three duet with Stanley is another memorably gorgeous moment, her phrasing fluent and persuasive — the moving way she sings "she's my sister" sticks in my mind still. Her acting is likewise persuasive. There's a look she throws Blanche just before "I can hardly stand it", when Blanche deems it a relief that Stanley is "on the road a lot", which on its own says as much as the aria which follows. The cinematic Stella of Kim Hunter was a slightly childish, simple figure, not hugely endearing; but Antoinette brings such humanity and compassion to the role as to make Stella touchingly sympathetic.
I said she was a revelation, and so she is — certainly to me. Her voice was not what I expected; it was better, stronger and more interesting than I had imagined. Though I'd seen her once before (in Sweeney Todd) I really wasn't sure what to anticipate from her Stella. So it has been a delight to discover such an excellent performance. And such a complete performance, as exciting theatrically as vocally. This star doesn't merely twinkle; she scintillates. Brava, Antoinette.