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Work of the Week – Kurt Weill: Street Scene

On 22 December, Theater Münster will perform Kurt Weill’s opera Street Scene (1946), staged by Hendrik Müller and conducted by Stefan Veselka.

After seeing a performance of Elmer Rice’s original play in Berlin, Weill was immediately inspired to set the play to music and fulfil his dream of writing an ‘American Opera’ by seamlessly fusing European Opera with the American Broadway style. It took 10 years of persistence for Rice to agree to the idea, but he then became very involved in the process and ultimately co-wrote the opera’s libretto with James Hughes. On 9 January 1947, Street Scene was premiered at the Adelphi Theater in New York, staged by Charles Friedman and under the musical direction of Maurice Abravanel.

Kurt Weill – Street Scene: an American Opera

Street Scene transports the audience to the streets of 1920s New York, and into the lives of the inhabitants of a shabby East Side tenement building. Over the course of two hot summer days, the opera follows their stories of hope, violence, love and disappointment.  Anna Maurrant is having an affair with the milkman and the whole neighborhood, apart from Anna’s husband Frank, are aware of her deception. Meanwhile Anna’s daughter Rose is in love with the neighbor’s son Sam, and together they dream of escaping to a better life. One day Frank comes home unexpectedly to find Anna with her lover, leading to a tragic finale.

American opera has at last been realized. . . . Weill’s music is dissonant, melodic, cacophonous, brutal, powerful, and emotional, with incredible climax building upon incredible climax, as the orchestra and singers love, weep, wail and shout the joys and sorrows of life against a stark, sordid background of a great dramatic story of America.  – Musical Digest, 1947

Weill’s opera will receive 8 further performances at Theater Münster from 3 January to 23rd April 2019. Further Kurt Weill performances will take place from 2 February to 30 March 2019 in Stuttgart, when Schauspiel Stuttgart will present his satirical ballet chanté The Seven Deadly Sins (1933).


© Musiktheater im Revier Gelsenkirchen