Weill: Street Scene

LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Street Scene
PERFORMER: Putnam, Embree, Hansen.Wilborn; Ludwigshafen Theatre Chorus, Rheinland-Pfaltz State PO/James Holmes; dir. Francesca Zambello (Theater im Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen, 1995)
Although there’s an uncharacteristic dearth of documentary provision with this Arthatis release (nothing more than a potted biography of Weill in the booklet), one can just about glean that it originated in a German television recording of a Houston Grand Opera production staged in Ludwigshafen, Germany. ENO first put the long-forgotten masterpiece of Kurt Weill’s American years back into the running in the late Eighties. Franceses Zambello’s Houston production came a few years later but captures with equal panache the comings and goings of an eventful 24 hours outside a New York tenement block. The way Weill and writers Elmer Rice and Langston Hughes cleverly characterise a whole streetful of city inhabitants while driving a catastrophic drama of violence through their lives is expertly caught by Zambello’s attention to directorial detail, itself preserved in nifty camerawork. The cast operates as a true ensemble, while allowing the young lovers Rose Maurrant (Teri Hansen) and Sam Kaplan (Kip Wilborn) and her tragic parents (Ashley Putnam and Marc Embree) to bring the human drama home. A few quirky edits apart (audience applause sometimes abruptly cut-off, elsewhere spookily absent just where you’d expect it) this is a highly recommendable DVD and a must for anyone who still thinks Weil wrote nothing of value after leaving Germany. Matthew Rye