Street Scene with its beautiful and very clever music and poignant story is a fine example of "American opera". I do prefer it to Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which is still very interesting for the themes it tackles but the story in Street Scene resonates with me more and the music perhaps more accessible.
This is a glorious production and every bit as riveting as the 1979 New York City Opera production(one of the best productions they ever did and inexplicably not on DVD). There were no real noticeable faults with the production apart from some static camera work in places but that's more down to the DVD than the production. Even that though wasn't enough to mar things because most of it is expansive, there is an intimacy still with the drama and there's no shooting at superfluous or irrelevant objects. The production looks great with evocative costuming and the lavish set certainly looks like a Manhattan tenement on a sunny day. The lighting is neither too dark or too bright, matching the tragic nature of the story very well. Francesca Zambello's stage direction is one of the high points, it's intelligent and moving stuff(not static at all) that actually respects the story and music and not full of made up touches that not only distract but annoy thank goodness. The characters all have personality and they and their rapport are always interesting, while the two plot-lines being done with tension and poignancy.
Musically, it's even better. The orchestral playing is attentive and dramatically aware, with some arias played with lyricism almost reminiscent of Puccini and the parts of the score influenced by blues Broadway and jazz have real zest and style. The chorus and ensemble work are tight and dramatically involved while James Holmes' conducting keeps things together swiftly but with the music and drama being given time to breathe. The spoken lines are delivered communicatively and almost speak-singing in rhythm, if not as clear as that in the NYCO production. Regarding the principals this production of Street Scene is brilliantly sung and just as effectively acted, Teri Hansen moved me to tears as Rose while Ashley Putnam's voice is more dramatic but evidence of tonal beauty and she shows herself to be a highly intelligent actress. Kip Wilborn is very charming as Sam, his rendition of Lonely House brings the house down which is apt considering as it is one of the best songs in the opera and Marc Embree is an appropriately brutish Frank without being scarily so though his scene at the end was touching.
Overall, a gloriously riveting production that Kurt Weill himself would be proud of. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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