ONE MAJOR FAULT
MOVIE MAVEN | New York, NY USA | 06/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Elmer Rice's sad, moving play, STREET SCENE, is a perfect example of Art triumphing with inspiration from a tragic source. In this case, it was the economic depression in America in the 1930's. Rice's play takes the inhabitants of a crowded tenement building during one particular oppressively hot summer day in New York City and lets us see them as individuals : the gossipy women who lean out of their windows to watch everyone passing by; Sam and Rose, young and in love and frightened to death of what the future holds; Rose's father, Frank, who passionately loves his wife but knows she is having an affair; the black janitor, Henry, who lives in the apartment house with the white people, but has his own dreams as an outsider; Mrs. Buchanan and her nervous husband who are having a baby; Jenny, coming home from her graduation, et al. Kurt Weill turned the play into a serious musical that opened on Broadway in 1947 but ever since has been performed in opera houses around the world. It is, arguably, the greatest achievement of Weill's career in the United States.This particular DVD is a film from Germany of the production from the Houston Grand Opera and it is very good. The acting is first rate, as is the singing, esp. that of Teri Hansen as 'Rose Maurrant' and Kip Wilborn as 'Sam Kaplan' who sings of life in the apartment house: "Funny you can be so lonely with all these folks around." Particular credit must be given to the director, Francesca Zambello, one of the very few directors working in the great opera houses of the world who values the scores she directs more than she values her own ego.One fault in this DVD (and I think it is a major one) is the fact that there are no "extras,"no documentaries on the making of the opera, the play or the DVD; there are no subtitles (even American singers do not project and perform American English so that it is totally comprehensible) and only a perfunctory bio of the musical genius Kurt Weill. One word about the lyrics. They are by the great American poet, Langston Hughes, and they are superb. One of my favorite lyrics appears in Sam's lament "Lonely House:" Sam is an unhappy young man who, without money, realizes there is no way he can marry the woman he loves. He cries, "Unhook the stars and take them down." Beautiful."
Germans do Weill proud
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 06/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I hesitated at first given the German origin of this DVD. Would they be able to get into the spirit of what is after all an American musical? What about accents? What about style? No need to worry. This isactually a joint production with the Houston Opera and many of the singers are English speaking. So what we have is an excellent production of Street Scene faithful to the spirit of the original. Except for the credits you wouldn't know it comes from Germany. The singers are uniformly good at both singing and acting. The ensemble acting is superb. No subtitles which makes it a little hard to grasp every word. And no extras. All in all a fine tribute to Kurt Weill just a year after his centenary. Now how about Mahagony and the Eternal Way?"
A Sad Story, A Magnificent Score
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the filming of the great, sad Kurt Weill/Elmer Rice/Langston Hughes popular opera presented by the Houston Grand Opera, conducted by James Holmes. I'm not sure "popular opera" is the right term; maybe there isn't one. It's based on Rice's play "Street Scene," a look at the lives of neighbors living in a New York tenement sometime around the late 1920's or early 1930's. It was unsuccessful when it opened on Broadway and is rarely mounted. The Houston Grand Opera revived it as a full-throated opera with big voices, and the score is sung with power and appeal.
Street Scene tells the story of the Maurrant family and of the relationships and gossip and stair-step lives of their neighbors living in the tenement. Anna Maurrant is a tired woman who sees her life slowing slipping away into drudgery. Her husband loves her in his own inarticulate fashion, but is suspicious, silent, unable to show much affection or love. They have two children, a boy still in school and Rose, a young woman who dreams of a better life and is making plans to achieve it. She is beginning to fall in love with Sam Kaplan, a young student who lives nearby. Kaplan is something of a quiet misfit who reads and wants to move away from the tenements with Rose and become a lawyer. After the characters are established, the story line moves inexorably into tragedy. Mrs. Maurrant, desperate for love and tenderness, begins seeing another man. Her husband discovers them, and kills them both. He is arrested and taken away. Rose decides she must give up her dreams and stay to take care of her brother. Sam knows he must leave or he will lose everything he values. The neighbors gradually settle back down to their lives of gossip.
Weill and Hughes, in my opinion, created one of the great scores. It ranges from songs of hope to songs of loneliness, from jazz to jitterbug, from children's songs to songs of such sadness they'll make you cry. "Lonely House," Sam Kaplan's cry of despair, is heart wrenching. Other songs that I think are extraordinary are "I Loved Her, Too," "What Good Would the Moon Be?," "Somehow I Never Could Believe," "When a Woman Has a Baby."
The presentation is fairly static, a filming of the stage action with some cutting to close-ups and medium shots. The DVD picture looks very good, however, and so is the sound."
Gorgeous. Not your usual Weill.
Bunny Man! | Seattle, WA USA | 10/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of us used to the sarcastic and biting Kurt Weill of Dreigoschenopera, this lyric (though dramatic and dark) opera will come as a lovely surprise. The opera is based on Elmer Rice's play and movie of the same title, and is a faithful translation of it.The production is lavish and lovely and beautifully mounted and cast. The music ranges from grand ensembles and production numbers, to jazz and broadway type show tunes. Houston does a first-rate job. Ths stage set is magnificently detailed. Costumes are authentic to period.The opera features ensembles and solos, and the spoken word, and some fine up-beat dancing. Do give it a try!"