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Kurt Weill's 'Street Scene' to Heat the Stage

Northwestern University’s spring opera set for May 20 to 22

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April 22, 2011 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “Street Scene” -- the American opera that in 1947 earned composer Kurt Weill the inaugural Tony Award for Best Original Score -- will premiere at Northwestern University in May. Based on Elmer Rice’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name with lyrics by Langston Hughes, this two-act opera is set in and outside a steamy tenement building during the Great Depression.

Presented by the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21; and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, on the University’s Evanston campus.

“Street Scene” tells the story of Anna Maurrant, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who seeks refuge in the arms of another man, with tragic results.

Jay Lesenger, professor and director of opera at the Bienen School, will stage the opera that almost immediately became an American classic after its Broadway premiere in 1947.

“Street Scene” melds elements of traditional European opera and American musical theater, turning the sidewalk outside a New York apartment dwelling in the midst of a sweltering summer day into the stage for comedy and drama. When Anna turns to another man, the tenants who live there become a Greek chorus. Weill’s authentic sounding opera score reflects the multi-ethnic population of New York in the 1930s, and is inspired by the jazz Weill heard there.

The creator of more than 200 opera and musical theater productions in the United States and abroad, Lesenger has worked as a director for nearly 35 years. Since 1995, he has served as the

general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera, where he has directed more than 50 productions.

Robert G. Hasty, associate director of orchestras, will conduct the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra in this production. In addition to teaching graduate and undergraduate conducting courses at Bienen, Hasty also is music director of the Merit Symphony Orchestra in Chicago. 

The Northwestern production will involve nearly 70 student singers, dancers and actors and will be performed in English. It is presented through special arrangements with European American Music Distributors LLC.

Tickets to “Street Scene” are $18 for the general public; $15 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit www.pickstaiger.org. To order tickets by phone, call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000.