promotional poster for the SFA School of Music's production of Kurt Weill's "Street Scene"

SFA School of Music will present its 2024 Opera Theater featuring Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene” at 7:30 p.m. April 11 through 13 in W.M. Turner Auditorium, Griffith Fine Arts Building, on the SFA campus.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – “Street Scene,” an American opera by Kurt Weill, Langston Hughes and Elmer Rice, is this year’s opera theater production presented by the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1929 play of the same name by Rice, “Street Scene” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 11 through 13, in W.M. Turner Auditorium in the Griffith Fine Arts Building, SFA campus.

The story portrays romances, squabbles, gossip and tragedy associated with neighborhood tenement life in Manhattan’s East Side during the hot summer of 1946. The opera explores themes that are timeless – love, alienation, jealousy, hope, tolerance, assimilation of immigrants, and apartment life in the inner city, according to Dr. Richard Berry, professor of voice at SFA and opera theater stage director.

“Many of the issues addressed in the show are quite contemporary in the present day,” Berry said.

“Street Scene” is described as “An American Opera,” and it is Weill’s attempt to merge traditional opera and the American musical, explains Berry.

“After his immigration to the United States, Weill began his assimilation into the American music scene by trying to create a new genre,” he said. “He famously said that there was not ‘classical music’ and ‘popular music,’ only ‘good music’ and ‘bad music.’ He was determined to merge the European tradition with American innovations and write ‘good music.’”

Most of the student performers are unfamiliar with the many cultural references and words used by Weill, poet Hughes and playwright Rice, Berry said. They have been learning the names and significance of "Joe Louis" and "Mrs. Vanderbilt” and terms like “bill of fare” and “Bergdorf Goodman.” Berry likened the rehearsal process to “an education in mid-20th century culture.”

The students have worked hard to sing the “difficult but fulfilling music,” Berry said. “We are very fortunate to have a large number of talented students so that we are able to double-cast most of the principal roles in the show, giving more students an opportunity to gain the experience of preparing and performing a featured role. In addition, the chorus in this production is stellar.”

Production manager is voice faculty member Nita Hudson, and conductor is Gregory Grabowski, director of orchestral activities. Other key production crew members are Luis Ramirez, scenic designer; Tom Littrell, lighting designer; Gregory Condon, scenic construction supervisor; Benjamin Kramer, scene painting supervisor; and Gracie O’Dell, costume coordinator.

“This is a powerful show with operatic arias and show tunes, and it addresses inner city apartment life with nosy neighbors, young families, immigrants, and all that goes with such a combination,” Berry added. “There is something for everyone.”

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students and youth. For tickets, visit the SFA Fine Arts Box Office website or call (936) 468-6407. For more information about the opera or School of Music, call (936) 468-4602.