The masterpiece of Kurt Weill's Broadway career, "Street Scene" reveals the success with which he made himself at home in America's musical arena after fleeing Hitler's Germany. His "Broadway opera" draws on blues, jazz, Negro spirituals, jitterbug and even Rogers and Hammerstein tunes, yet its lean textures and subtle twists of melody are immediately identifiable as Kurt Weill. Based on Elmer Rice's play of the same name, with lyrics by Harlem poet Langston Hughes, "Street Scene" is a portrait of life in a New York tenement block in the 1930s. With roles for thirty principal players, the characters are working-class people from a multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds struggling to realize the "American Dream." James Holmes conducts the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.
Kurt Weill's "Broadway opera" is an amazing mélange of show tunes, arias, jazz numbers, folk songs, and spirituals, a true musical melting pot that aptly underlines the rich variety of characters that populate the New York City tenement block in the 1930s that's the focus of this exceptionally vital and criminally undervalued work. This 1995 production originated at Houston Grand Opera, and as presented on disc, it's an exciting way to experience this most atypical composer's extraordinary musical-theater piece. The acting and singing of a formidably talented cast, including several excellent youngsters, couldn't be better, although occasionally their clear diction slips, making one wish for subtitles (it's sung in English, of course). James Holmes conducts with passion and precision, and the staging generously evokes a bygone era of American history, simultaneously looking rundown and part of a dreamscape worth longing for. The visual and audio presentation is exceptional. Shown in its original aspect ratio (16x9 enhanced) and heard in full-bodied Dolby 5.1, this is a Street Scene
for the ages. --Kevin Filipski