At the heart of the opera sit the Maurrants. An angry, disaffected war veteran with strong conservative views, Frank is married to Anna who, we discover through the gossip of her neighbours, is suspected of having an affair with the local milk collector. They have a daughter Rose and a young son, Willie.
The Maurrants share the building with a number of different nationalities. perhaps best illustrated by the Fiorentinos. Lippo Fiorentino, an Italian immigrant, has also served in the armed forces. His decision to buy ice creams for all the children leads to a rendition of the only ode to ice cream to be found in opera, ‘Ice Cream Sextet’. He’s married to a German lady, Greta.
Olga and Carl Olsen are Swedish immigrants who have recently become parents. They are neighbours to Emma Jones, the sharp-tongued gossip in the tenement building whose husband George seeks his solace in alcohol.
The Jones’s son, Vincent, is a nasty piece of work who fancies his chances with Rose. He aggressively tries to chat her up when he returns home, but rapidly backs down when his mother intervenes!
Meanwhile, his sister Mae is a good-time girl who enjoys a night out on the town. She gets to dance a fast-paced Jitterbug with her latest beau, Dick McGann, in the upbeat ‘Moon-faced, Starry-eyed’, as together they try to escape from the tedium of their lives through alcohol.
In another light-hearted moment in Act I, we get to see Jennie Hildebrand returning from her graduation ceremony with the highest marks in the class (‘Wrapped In A Ribbon and Tied In A Bow’). Even that story has a sting in the tale however, as Laura Hildebrand is a single mother about to be evicted for not being able to pay the rent.
The Kaplans are another one-parent family but Sam and his sister Shirley live with their father. Sam is a gauche young man studying law. In love with Rose, he sings the heart-rending aria ‘Lonely House’ about how alienated he feels from his surroundings.
Later, Sam is the only person left on stage at the end of Act I. However, the final song goes to the janitor, Henry Davis, who sums up everyone’s dreams and aspirations as he sweeps up the day’s detritus in ‘I Got A Marble and A Star (reprise)’.
Street Scene is sung in English and lasts approximately 2 hours 45 minutes (including one interval). Join in on social media with #ONStreetScene