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Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Street Scene, opera in two acts (1947)
Patricia Racette (Anna Maurrant), Paulo Szot (Frank Maurrant), Mary Bevan (Rose Maurrant), Joel Prieto (Sam Kaplan), Michael J Scott (Lippo Fiorentino), Geoffrey Dolton (Abraham Kaplan), Sarah-Marie Maxwell (Mae Jones, Nursemaid), Laurel Dougall (Nursemaid), Dominic Lamb (Dick McGann)
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Real Madrid/Tim Murray
Dick Bird (set design, costumes), Arthur Pita (choreography), John Fulljames (director)
rec. Teatro Real, Madrid, February 2018
Picture: NTSC / 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
Sound: LPCM Stereo/ 5.1 Dolby Digital, Region code: 0
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese.
Booklet enclosed

This DVD of John Fulljames’ production makes the strongest case possible for reviving Kurt Weill’s Broadway Opera. Weill was inspired by Elmer Rice’s ground-breaking play to compose a work that seemed at the time neither to fit on Broadway nor in the opera house. In 1947, it was received with something bordering on respectful confusion by an audience accustomed to the likes of Showboat, Oklahoma, and South Pacific. For this production, Fulljames and designer Dick Bird came up with an amazing scaffold-like set reminiscent of the fire-escape-clad brick buildings of New York tenements which, when populated with the cast, manages to give a wonderfully claustrophobic impression.

Brazilian bass Paulo Szot gives a marvellous portrayal of the alcoholic Frank Maurrant; his increasingly sinister and threatening presence dominates the evening. Vocally, he has a warm incisive tone which allows a touch of the inner turmoil of this man to shine through. As his wife Anna, Patricia Racette radiates a tender sincerity and vulnerability combined with an inner strength that is perfect for the complex character of this story. Her voice palpitates with shimmering, emotional tone that delineates her inner torment. In her Act One aria “I never could believe”, she rises superbly to the exposed climax of “There’s got to be a little happiness somewhere.

In the secondary roles, Mary Bevan as Rose Maurrant possesses a creamy lyric soprano to nourish her aria “What good would the Moon be?” Her portrayal of the initially ambitious younger woman gradually falling in love and then coping with the dilemma of the difficult decisions that she has to make is most touching.  Joel Prieto as the tender and loving Sam Kaplan projects a sensitive, appealing portrayal. His honey-infused lyric tenor provides a haunting delivery of the work’s most famous aria “Lonely house.” His ability to move imperceptibly from head to chest voice in this piece is most impressive.

The rest of the roles are taken mostly by an English-speaking cast but they manage a variety of polyglot accents which is quite convincing for the drama and all of them add to the wonderful atmosphere in this work.  There is a truly virtuosic rendition of the jitterbug “Moon Face, Starry-Eyed” by Don Lamb and Sarah-Marie Maxwell.

Conductor Tim Murray and the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Real Madrid give a performance fully in keeping with the Broadway-styled numbers that are interspersed throughout the powerful score. One could not tell that this was actually a traditional opera house orchestra.

The filming of these performances is done with perfect sound and picture. It is quite likely that home viewing allows one to enjoy Weill’s opera even more than in the opera house, as the cameras are constantly diverting one’s attention to little character vignettes. These are details that would frequently get lost in the auditorium and contribute much to the impact of the story. BelAir has included a booklet with some production photos and an article about Weill’s opera that appeared in the souvenir program of the Teatro Real’s production.

Mike Parr

Previous review (Blu-ray): Paul Corfield Godfrey

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