A Streetcar Named Desire Reviews

Composer Peter Salem’s beguiling music, performed by the Opera House Orchestra, included a mix of jazz, swing, mournful saxophone and unnerving piano notes that wafted like smoke and doom, all of which imbued the ballet with just the right off-kilter atmosphere. — Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post

Peter Salem’s superb commissioned score uses a diverse combination of live and recorded music. Lyrically classical strings accompany love and heartbreak, and upbeat jazz transports action to the vibrant nightlife of New Orleans. —

The score, most of it live from a band in the pit, some of it recorded atmospheric noise, is the chief motor of this Streetcar. Drawing on a range of styles, from polite wedding waltzes to juicy New Orleans jazz to Philip Glass-ish noodling, it doesn’t just underpin the action but offers emotional pointers ahead of the game. A blind man would know where he was in the story. The climax, where the “Paper Moon” theme shatters into a pile-up of discordant shards, isn’t just a stirring aural metaphor for the chaos in Blanche’s head, you can imagine it really is the sound in her head. 

. . . an atmospheric and sustaining new score by Peter Salem – dramatic and evocative 

. . . Peter Salem’s excellent new score 

. . . Peter Salem’s score is a crucial narrative ingredient, both in it’s graphic soundeffects and in the musical colours of it’s fractured percussion and insinuating jazz.

The dancers were brilliantly served by Peter Salem’s atmospheric score, which blended elements of jazz, obsessive minimalist figures, dissonant crashes and keening string romance.

… the excellent music is deeply integrated with the choreography, sometimes even telling the story alone. — Edinburgh Evening News

Peter Salem’s heady score veers from lush, decorous waltzes to a hypnotic minimalist brume, fragments of New Orleans jazz and jukebox, occasionally shattered by the shrapnel of industrial sounds. — The Huffington Post

Peter Salem’s score, acting like a long, cinematic tone poem that fits the action like a tailor-made suit. — Seen and Heard International

They also had the good fortune of being able to build on an earthy, sensuous score by Peter Salem whose music captures Tennessee Williams’ myriad elements of sexual attraction, psychological tension, class conflicts and human naiveté. — Charleston Today

Broken Wings Reviews

Peter Salem’s score is extraordinary. The wonderful ENB Philharmonic are set challenges with all three works, not least needing to co-ordinate with recordings, and they rise to it magnificently under the ever skilful baton of Gavin Sutherland. Everything was polished and exact. The percussion must be especially commended as they have to play a bicycle wheel and traditional Chinese instruments! Not to be left out, the horns get to pretend that they are Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass but playing a version of The Internationale that appears to have been arranged by John Cage. Fragments come and go, sometimes distorted, as if they were written on scraps of paper which the orchestra have been told to play at random. —

And its triumph is inseparable from Peter Salem’s score, a vast exotic landscape in itself. Blasts of Tijuana brass and louche maracas summon the heat of a Mexican fiesta, a husky Mexican balladeer croons along with the love affair, and Salem even finds a musical solution to the crash on the public bus. Here is a composer who understands exactly what a ballet needs to motor it along. Hats off, too, to conductor Gavin Sutherland and the ENB Philharmonic. This is exciting work, excitingly executed. —

At any rate, the piece that breaks that cycle of Rojo’s, opens this programme and inspired Perry’s offering, turns out to be really rather special. Entitled Broken Wings, and reuniting Lopez Ochoa, Meckler and Streetcar composer Peter Salem, it explores the life and mind of the celebrated Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954).

It begins noirishly and abstractly, with the young Kahlo (Rojo) emerging on top of a large cube, surrounded by a part-playful, part-menacing cohort of demons adroitly decked out as Day of the Dead participants. Thereafter, these characters – deftly conceived, unmistakably Mexican emblems of psychological torment and malign fortune– are never far away, constantly waiting to pounce. As, indeed, they soon do.

With Rojo effortlessly passing for 18, Kahlo dances an engagingly carefree duet with a young fellow (Cesar Corrales), whereupon Salem’s light-hearted but rhythmically complex music suddenly screeches to a halt, the colour instantly drains from the stage, and she is brutally snatched into the air by her skeletal coterie.

But for all the breathtaking imagery, what ultimately drives the performance is Cao’s indomitable Frida, paired with Max Westwell’s compassionate and charismatic Diego Rivera, and Peter Salem’s Mexican-flavored score. With humor, grit and visceral physicality, “Broken Wings” tells the story of an artist shaped by hardship, but ultimately defined by triumph. —

Peter Salem’s tuneful mix of South American style tunes fits the action perfectly. —

Peter Salem’s original music, interwoven with mariachi bands and Mexican folk was rhythmically extraordinary at times and perfectly simple at others, revealing the inner world of Ochoa’s Frida. —

While the various costumes by Sandra Woodall were divine and the large, wiry set design by David Finn and Emma Kingsbury was impressively detailed, the show stealer was the combination of composer Peter Salem’s new score with the vast emotions explored through the many characters, expertly depicted under Pickett’s mentorship. Salem, who has previously composed a score for A Streetcar Named Desire, another Williams’ play turned into a full-length ballet in Scotland, created this rich and complex soundscape that was performed wonderfully by The Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. His music is beautifully suggestive of the love, greed, disappointment, anxiety and hope danced on stage. — – digital dance magazine

Music, choreography and emotion were as intertwined as the characters, whose fraught stories unfolded through strains drifting in and out as in a dream. Performed by the Atlanta Ballet orchestra under conductor Ari Pelto, Peter Salem’s score evoked a circus; the hypnotic Gypsy, with violin melodies both plaintive and seductive; a toreador’s horn; the indefatigable Klezmer; and an after-hours vaudeville show. Kilroy’s sparkling minimalist theme was light shining in darkness. — ArtsAtl

Salem’s music is richly evocative of love, hate, tenderness, pain, fear, and hope. The powerful drums are the heartbeat of the main character, but also the heartbeat of life itself, pounding above the poignant melodies. I think Tennessee Williams’ story has been waiting for this music ever since the play was written; perhaps it took this collaboration to bring everything together. The score is very complex and, I suspect, incredibly difficult to play. The Atlanta Ballet orchestra was in its element. —