A tenement on the East Side of Manhattan is our window into a multitude of precarious lives pushed to the limits. Romance, disputes, gossip mongering, betrayals, and constant tension mark the routines of this community of neighbors in the socially conscious Street Scene, the first opera Kurt Weill composed in the United States after escaping Nazi persecution. The brilliance of the music complements a sparkling libretto by Elmer Rice—an adaptation of his Pulitzer-winning play of the same name—and lyrics by legendary Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
Weill sought to write an “American opera” drawing on Broadway musicals, blues, and jazz, all with an eye toward the European operatic tradition—recitatives, arias, ensemble—in which he had been immersed before crossing the Atlantic. The final product lies somewhere between Weill’s Threepenny Opera (a collaboration with Brecht and the origin of the famous “Mack the Knife”) and Bernstein’s West Side Story: a masterful depiction of everyday life in a big city, brutally realistic but with a refined poetic sensibility.
Under Tim Murray’s precise baton, this new production by John Fulljames, featuring a top-notch vocal cast, vividly renders the vitality and energy of the New York streets that inspired Weill’s brilliant theatrical mind.