Eastman Opera to present 'Street Scene'

05:00 AM, Mar 31, 2013

(Provided photo)/

Written By Daniel J. Kushner

If you go

What: Kurt WeillÂ’s 'Street Scene,' produced by Eastman Opera Theatre.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.
Cost: $15 to $35.
For tickets: (585) 454-2100 or esm.rochester.edu.

Eastman Opera Theatre will present an ambitious production of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene this weekend.

The work appeared on Broadway in 1946, and has been credited as setting the tone for American oepra. The work’s enduring hybrid quality makes its appeal more broad.

I hope that audiences will recognize this work of ‘Street Scene’ as the ultimate lyrical theater vehicle to go outside of their comfort zone,” says Daigle, the opera’s director and chair of Eastman School of Music’s voice and opera department. “If you’re a musical theater fan, this is the show to introduce you to opera. It won’t feel foreign — the musical theater idioms will fuse the two musical forms. If you love opera, this is the show to introduce yourself to the musical theater. It will offer a fulfilling operatic experience — grand in vocal, choral and cast size.”

Weill is one of the most vital 20th century American composers. “I believe it refocused American opera composers after its premiere to write on subject matter that dealt with Americana themes,” says Daigle of Street Scene.

Street Scene follows the interactions of neighboring families over two days in a Lower East Side apartment complex. Specifically, the drama centers around the Maurrant family — the ill-tempered patriarch Frank, his discontented wife Anna, and their purpose-driven daughter Rose — and the gossip that swirls around the dysfunctional family.

The tensions that drive the action have everything to do with 1940s New York City, “the social pot of NYC starting to melt but not yet melted,” Daigle says, filled with many who are realizing their dreams and ambitions won’t be filled quite in the way they imagined.

The emotions expressed in Street Scene — chief them wistful melancholy, unabashed love, loneliness, and unbridled rage — are as varied as the multicultural characters that embody them.

Weill’s deceptively challenging score is more than up to the task of this nuanced story. “It’s brilliant, there’s so much there — beautiful, soaring operatic lines, fun dance tunes,” says tenor Matthew Valverde, who portrays Rose’s love interest, Sam Kaplan.

The production employs two casts that will alternate performances. This decision to double-cast each part yielded fruitful creative results.

Keely Futterer plays the gossiping Mrs. Fiorentino, alternating the role with fellow soprano Lourdes Cossich. “Cast X is an apple, and cast Y is an orange, so there’s really no way to compare them, except that we’re singing the same music,” Futterer says. “But our backstories are different, our intentions are different.”

Also integral to the story is the set, featuring a three-story walk-up apartment building with large windows through which the audience can see the personal dramas unfold, says soprano Adelaide Boedecker, who portrays Rose Maurrant.

It’s a prop, it’s a set, it’s everything, because we’re telling the story — and the house (is) the whole reason we’re all together,” she says.

Kushner is a Buffalo-based freelance writer.