David's Review Corner
, July 2009
A rare recording of Kurt Weill’s musical, Street Scene, taken from a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1949, and featuring Polyna Stoska, who created the work’s leading role. It was intended for overseas broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio, the present disc including just seventeen tracks of vocal music and omits all of the linking narrative. That leaves little more than half of the original that started life as a Broadway musical in 1947, but with so much competition at the time, it enjoyed modest success. A few attempts at revival saw a staging in the UK last year by The Opera Group who viewed it as ‘Music Theatre’, and it seemed to work much better than in its guise as a musical. The accompanying booklet tells precious little of the plot that concerns the everyday life of six couples from differing nationalities who live in the close confines of a tenement block in New York. It opens in a workaday atmosphere, the young ones longing for something better, but are unable to break out of their humdrum existence. Anna Maurrant tries to protect her children from a bullying husband, and out of her mundane life emerges her own need for romance which she finds it in Steve. By chance her husband comes home unexpectedly early and finding them together kills them in a jealous rage. The end of the work sees life in the tenement slowly returning to normal. Dorothy Sarnoff sings the part of Rose Maurrant, the smart girl who is capable of escaping from the tenement, and it is with her the performance comes to life. The remainder of the cast is routine, though it probably portrays the work as it sounded on Broadway, and is much different to the two modern complete recordings that use casts of opera singers. This original recording is of haphazard balance and prone to overlading, but the restoration engineer has worked miracles.