Opera Scotland

Street Scene spectacular at RCS

Posted 19 May 2018

A sizzling slice of 1940s New York life comes to Glasgow in one of the most ambitious productions ever staged by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. There are only four performances.

 Blurring the boundaries between musical theatre and opera, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene brings together a show-stopping set, an infectious score and a cast of almost 60 from across the disciplines, including young performers from the Junior Conservatoire.

This production features:

  • A spectacular 7m-high set of three tenement buildings and New York skyline
  • 20 cast members
  • 24-strong chorus
  • 8 Junior Conservatoire students - one who plays a principal character
  • 2 Musical Theatre students
  • Orchestra with 43 musicians led by conductor Robert Houssart who is based at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen

 A story of everyday life in a big city, Street Scene centres on the gossip and goings-on of a vibrant New York neighbourhood where love, passion, despair and sorrow collide in the grip of an oppressive summer heatwave. Arias and ensembles blend with blues, jazz and Broadway-style song and dance numbers in this award-winning, must-see production.

 Philip White, Head of Opera at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “With almost 60 performers on stage, a live orchestra and a spectacular set, Street Scene is a powerful production that’s not-to-be-missed. Street Scene challenges conventional perceptions of opera. It seamlessly blends both opera and musical theatre in a magnificent score that will appeal to fans of both genres – and it’s a perfect pathway for those new to opera. It’s full of life and energy and at its heart is rich storytelling which unpicks the fabric of a community and really packs a punch.”

 Street Scene opens on Saturday, May 19 for a four-night run. It’s directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones who is Artistic Director of theatre company Action to the World.

Street Scene is Kurt Weill’s masterpiece, a musical opera that focuses on a tenement in New York in the middle of a heatwave,” said Alexandra Spencer-Jones.

“It concentrates on families and the goings-on of other people’s lives and how one family’s behaviour permeates the whole street and sets everyone in a summer tizz. It’s a really good pathway into opera. It has a unique score for the time and it is a challenging sing but it’s different for an opera because it has so much spoken text, so the acting is very important.

 “It’s also an incredibly accessible and sexy world and we’ve spent a lot of time looking at Tennessee Williams around that time, when A Streetcar Named Desire was cleaning up awards on Broadway, for the feeling and heat of the piece. Street Scene relies on a very strong physical language so it’s very interesting to look at and the design is incredible. It allows us complete and utter access to both sides of New York – the aspirational, American dream is just in the background but really, our world is this microcosm of life slap bang in the west side of New York City.”

 The students have immersed themselves in the roles and worked with Broadway star Kim Criswell on character development.

“The students are incredibly willing, very positive and very keen historically – they’re a little more than obsessed with their roles,” said Alexandra.

“They’re bringing original thought and humour to the table and one performer sent me the entire history of their character. Imagine having that much commitment to an ensemble or supporting role. That’s the level of detail I expect and that’s the level I’ve been given in the rehearsal room, they’re proffering up the goods. I’ve been really impressed.”

 The set takes a starring role in Street Scene, which has been conceived by theatre designer Adrian Linford and created and operated by students of the BA Production Arts and Design and BA Production Technology and Management programmes at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, one of the world’s top ten performing arts education institutions.

 Three towering tenements – with their front stoops and fire escapes and iron balconies and balustrades – dominate the stage with the iconic city skyline glittering in the distance. Adrian said the production students have brought New York of the 1940s to life in the construction and creation of the set and costumes: “The detail we’ve been getting from them is incredible.

 “We have about 90 costumes in the show, some we’re pulling from stock, some are original pieces, and the suits we’ve had made are immaculate – you can’t find that kind of thing hanging around. The set structure in the workshops and the painters have been superb. It’s tremendous work for four performances.”

 Street Scene is kindly supported by Corney & Barrow, one of the country’s most historic independent wine merchants, who shares the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s commitment to the performing arts. Ian Matthews, Account Manager at Corney & Barrow, said: “We have worked with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for over two years now and we are very excited to be sponsoring this unique and exceptional performance."

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