BEST OPERA - 2001
Houston Grand Opera
A few years back the Houston Grand Opera put its production of Kurt Weill's Street Scene up for sale. The folks over at the Minnesota Opera, who had long wanted to perform the piece, couldn't have been more delighted and quickly snapped up the sets and costumes. The production staff restored the exquisitely detailed four-story sets, and in February the company premiered its own staging of the work--a new addition to its permanent repertoire. Based on Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning play and with a libretto by Rice and Langston Hughes, Street Scene depicts a couple of steamy summer days in a 1940s New York tenement. This place teems with stories of unrequited love, adultery, even murder. The work is part opera, part Broadway musical, and the Minnesota Opera's production made the most of both--from conductor Rob Fisher's grasp of Weill's sweeping score to Jill Slyter and Tony Vierling's show-stopping Act I dance number. Talented local performers anchored the production: Elisabeth Comeaux gave a poignant portrayal of Rose Maurrant, the girl who feels suffocated by her New York home; and Kimm Julian offered a glimpse into the growing desperation of Rose's cuckolded father, Frank Maurrant. Interestingly, the Minnesota Opera seems on the vanguard of a Street Scene revival: Both the Chicago Lyric Opera and the Pittsburgh Opera plan to mount their own productions in their upcoming seasons.