Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

Kurt Weill regarded this work highly, predicting it would be remembered as his masterpiece. It is a difficult work to peg; is it opera with some spoken dialogue, or Broadway with a large amount of musical underscore and mood music? Perhaps the answer simply lies in the term “Musical Theater”. The fact is that its subject, a day in the life of a poor New York neighborhood, portrays a truly “American” experience, written by a knowing tourist who loaded the work with wonderful drama and good music. The musical/opera is hard to cast, for it takes a very large number of performers, all of whom must be capable singing actors. It seems amazing then, that both successful full-length recordings of Street Scene were done at almost the same time, without duplicating any cast members. Though John Mauceri’s Decca recording is good, I think that this Jay CD has a casting edge. Kristine Ciesinski makes a magnificent Anna. Her singing of “A Boy Like You” is womanly and motherly, whereas that of Josephine Barstow on Decca is matronly, more like a grandmother. Richard Van Allan, as Anna’s suspicious husband, is dark and brooding, much more menacing than Decca’s Samuel Ramey. And Bonaventura Bottone, as Sam, makes “Lonely Town” a more fluid and memorable experience than the competition’s Jerry Hadley, who sounds self-conscious and patronizing. Jay’s Carl Davis weilds a slightly more incisive baton than Mauceri, and his chorus enunicates more clearly.

The main difference between the two performances harks back to an effort to categorize it. Mauceri’s seems more opera; this one seems more Broadway. On the Jay production there is an obvious effort to make every word intelligible and there is a greater sense of drama. Jay even has a slight edge in sound, where its Dolby Surround techniques are very effective not only in big crowd scenes, as voices and ambulance sounds come from the sides and rear, but also in imparting a more three-dimensional quality to the voices.

The Jay has to bow to Decca, however, in matters of annotation. It contains no libretto, nor even a synopsis, both of which are included with the Mauceri recording. The bottom line is, if you want to know what’s going on you need to have the Decca booklet. An odd, but very real dilemma. Show and opera fans might be willing to spring for both sets, but Jay might consider adding at least a synopsis to include with future pressings of this work. Since the cast has such superior diction, it would suffice.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: this one, Mauceri (Decca)


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