Eddie Pensier writes:
The late American tenor Jerry Hadley gives us a haunting and wistful rendition of this tune, from Street Scene.
Like Porgy and Bess, Street Scene is often the basis for pedantic musical arguments about whether it’s an opera or a musical. Its composer, Kurt Weill, didn’t help matters by pronouncing it a “Broadway Opera” or sometimes an “American Opera”. (The piece’s lyrics were written by Langston Hughes, the book by Elmer Rice.) Despite winning the first-ever Tony Award for Best Original Score in 1947, it has never been revived in a legit Broadway theater. When it has been produced, it’s nearly always been in an opera house (or community theater, or school) with operatic-type voices in most of the roles. It actually feels rather dated–a strange thing to say about an opera, I’ll grant you–, but it’s still a powerful and gripping piece of Americana, and this is one of its best numbers.
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Hadley’s suicide is still baffling and heartbreaking. An “air rifle?” Reminds of Del Shannon killing himself with a .22, despite knowing full well it was not adequate to doing the task neatly. Weil’s transformation into a Broadway composer is remarkable in a whole other way. Compare the output of Weil’s post-Weimar career with the sour postwar life of his former partner Brecht. “Street Scene” is a nobly ambitious: social consciousness in a form Brecht was too dumb to attempt. But my favorite Broadway Weil is “One Touch of Venus” , where the music contributes mightily to the sexy goings on.
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The character of Abe Kaplan, the father of the young male romantic lead Sam, is portrayed as humorous, an old-school Jewish Marxist griping about the “moiders” in the “capitalist papers”. Maybe it’s not so dated after all. 🙂
Hadley’s suicide, according to people I know who were closer to him than I was, was a combination of depression over a bitter divorce and a decline in the quality and beauty of his voice which resulted in job offers drying up. From what I heard, he was considering making the transition into character roles like Loge and Mime in the Ring (much like his fellow former leading tenors Francisco Araiza and Siegfried Jerusalem), so his fatal turn of mind is even more puzzling. He was marvelous in Mozart and light-lyric roles, less successful in lyric stuff that might have been too heavy for him and hastened his vocal decline. He was a first-rate Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte.