Set on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1940s, “Street Scene” features music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Langston Hughes and book by Elmer Rice, and is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Rice.
“Street Scene” is the story of everyday life in an apartment building in a big city, where residents cope with the summer heat and fill their days with gossip and plenty of squabbles. Amidst the hubbub of this community, Anna Maurrant is a discontented housewife, while her daughter Rose finds romance with the boy next door. As tensions build between neighbors and families alike, this beautiful tragedy showcases how little we can truly know about people behind closed doors—until it is too late.
Legendary composer Kurt Weill received the first Tony Award for Best Original Score for this work, after its Broadway premiere in 1947. Weill yearned to make a truly American opera for the Broadway stage and the score is considered his masterpiece. It contains operatic arias and ensembles such as “Somehow I Never Could Believe” and “Let Things Be Like They Always Was,” as well as jazz and blues influences, including “I Got a Marble and a Star” and “Lonely House.”
Some of the more Broadway-style numbers are “Wrapped In a Ribbon and Tied in a Bow,” “Wouldn’t You Like To Be On Broadway?” and “Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed.” There is also an extended song-and-dance sequence.
Lyricist Langston Hughes, known as a leading jazz poet during the Harlem Renaissance and for his social activism, blended fragments of his famous poetry into the “melting pot” libretto.
“The story seeks to encapsulate a very specific time in America and does so through the microcosm of one apartment building,” said director Bryce Britton, who joined the WVU School of Theatre and Dance faculty this fall and is director of the new Bachelor of Fine Arts program in Musical Theatre.
“The show has something for everyone, from traditional opera, jazz, blues, and swing to classic Broadway-style show tunes.
“What I love about this opera is its relevance to today’s audience,” Britton said. “Beyond the powerful characters and dazzling music, who doesn’t love juicy gossip and passing on a newly uncovered secret?
“At the core of our story is a group of people who judge on appearance and react to rumors—just like we do today. ‘Street Scene’ is the perfect show to blend the outstanding features of both the School of Music and the School of Theatre and Dance, which is where we are headed with our new Musical Theatre program.”
Musical direction for “Street Scene” is by Maestro Marcello Cormio, the new interim director of the WVU Opera Theatre program. He has appeared with orchestras around the United States and Europe, and in recent years has been regularly invited as guest lecturer and conductor for opera workshops at prestigious academic institutions, such as Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Among his upcoming conducting engagements are productions at Michigan State University and the Sarasota Opera, as well as a series of concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as cover conductor.
”’Street Scene’ is considered by many, including the composer himself, to be Weill’s dramatic masterpiece, and rightfully so,” said Cormio. “It is an incredible score, and the culmination of Weill’s exploration of different musical idioms. Through this unique mixture of styles, ‘Street Scene’ offers us a very vivid depiction of a New York neighborhood’s everyday life, but also a deep exploration of universal human emotions in their entire spectrum, from birth to playful childhood, to the hardship of life, to the tragedy of death, from youthful love to despair, to the dream of a different existence.
“Dealing with such a complex and emotionally charged work has made the rehearsal process an engaging, challenging and enriching experience for all of us involved. I could not have imagined a more exciting way for me to start my adventure at WVU as head of the Opera program and my collaboration with the School of Theatre and Dance.”
Scenic design for the show is by theater professor Robert Klingelhoefer, lighting design is by theater professor Alan McEwen, costume design is by Master of Fine Arts costume design student Cecelia Hill, and sound design is by Bachelor of Fine Arts design/technology senior Savannah Yost.
The cast of “Street Scene” is made up of voice students in the School of Music, including Faith Snyderman, Dallas Wright, Caryn Crozier, and Robert Rowley; as well as students in the School of Theatre and Dance, including Mallory Robson, Vincent Pelligrino, and Margaret Dransfield.
Faculty members William Koehler, a voice professor from the School of Music, and General Hambrick, assistant professor of dance in the School of Theatre and Dance, are also featured in the production.
Special guest artist in the role of Sam Kaplan is tenor Ryan C. Connelly, who holds degrees in vocal performance from Temple University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and was named Kentucky Opera Young Artist in 2011 and also Virginia Opera Emerging Artist in 2013. Connelly has performed many singing roles at universities, operas and festivals in the region and most recently performed with Virginia Opera for its 2013-2014 season.
Performances of “Street Scene” will take place in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre at the Creative Arts Center during Oct. 23-25 at 7:30 p.m., with a closing matinee to be held on Oct. 26 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for the general public and $15 for senior citizens and students. There is a group rate of $10 per ticket for groups of ten or more.
Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com, the CAC or Mountainlair box offices, or by calling 304-293-SHOW.
An ongoing rehearsal blog is available on the School of Theatre & Dance website at http://ccarts.wvu.edu/theatreanddanceblog.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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