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Street Scene

American Opera in two acts. Book by Elmer Rice, based on his play of the same name. Lyrics by Langston Hughes and Elmer Rice.

Work Details


Full Evening

First Broadway Production

9 January 1947, New York, Adelphi Theater, Charles Friedman, dir., Maurice Abravanel, cond. (148 performances)

For information about licensing this work for use, see our online guide

by Mark N. Grant

Act I

Outside a multi-ethnic Manhattan tenement on a sweltering summer evening, some women are passing the time () while the janitor takes out the garbage (). The women switch to gossiping about Anna Maurrant’s extramarital affair with Sankey the milkman (); they stop when she enters. Mrs. Maurrant and young Sam Kaplan, who is in love with her daughter Rose, converse as Mr. Buchanan frets about his wife’s impending childbirth (). Then Anna’s brutish (and suspicious) husband Frank arrives and demands to know why Rose hasn’t come home from work. After Frank goes inside, Anna pours out her frustrations and broken dreams, even as she continues to hope for a better life (). When Sankey walks by, Anna follows him, fueling the neighbors’ gossip (“Get a Load of That” reprise). Lippo Fiorentino arrives with ice-cream cones for everyone, providing relief (comic and otherwise) from the heat (). Frank, not amused, rails against kids today and modern society (). The Hildebrand family enters, about to be evicted from their apartment because they can’t pay the rent, even though oldest daughter Jenny has just won a scholarship ().

The building’s denizens retire for the night. Sam stays outside to lament his isolation in the midst of so many neighbors (). After Sam goes in, Rose Maurrant finally enters, escorted by her lecherous boss Harry Easter. Easter tries to seduce her with promises of a show business career (), but Rose rebuffs him (). Easter leaves as Frank enters. Mrs. Buchanan goes into labor, and Rose exits to summon the doctor. Mae Jones and her boyfriend Dick, who have been out partying, do a jitterbug on the sidewalk (). When Rose returns, Mae’s brother Vincent makes a pass at her. Sam comes out to defend her, and Vincent knocks him down. Rose comforts Sam, and the two share their dream of escaping the tenement’s squalor ().

Act II

Scene 1

Early the next morning; Rose’s younger brother Willie and the other children play on the sidewalk (). Buchanan’s wife has given birth. Rose tells Sam she is on her way to a funeral. Frank says he is going out of town, but he gets truculent when Anna asks when he’ll be back. Rose tries to convince Frank to be kinder to Anna, but he rejects her advice (). After Frank leaves, Anna sends Willie off to school, telling him that he will make her proud some day (). Rose tells Sam about Harry Easter’s offer. Appalled, Sam pleads with Rose to elope with him now; she considers the idea () but decides she needs to think it over. Rose leaves for the funeral, and city marshals arrive to evict the Hildebrands, as Sam remains seated on the stoop. Mr. Sankey enters and Mrs. Maurrant invites him up to her apartment. Suddenly Frank reappears. Sam tries to warn Anna, but to no avail. Frank rushes upstairs and shoots Anna and Sankey, who drops dead. Frank escapes in the confusion as an ambulance, policemen, and crowds mob around. Rose returns from the funeral just in time to see her mortally wounded mother carried off on a stretcher ().

Scene 2

Later that day, two nannies push their baby carriages in front of the tenement and gossip about the murder (). Rose returns from the hospital where her mother has died. As Sam and his sister Shirley try to comfort Rose, more shots ring out: Frank Maurrant has been captured by the police. Now remorseful, Frank awkwardly tries to explain to Rose why he committed the murders () as the police lead him away. Sam once more declares his love and implores Rose to go away with him, but she has decided that she must go off on her own (). Two strangers enter, hoping to rent the Hildebrands’ apartment. As evening approaches, the denizens of the building once again sit on the stoop as if nothing happened, gossiping and complaining about the heat (“Ain’t It Awful, the Heat?” reprise).

  • Ain't it Awful, the Heat?
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  • I Got a Marble and a Star
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  • Get a Load of That
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  • When a Woman has a Baby
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  • Somehow I Never Could Believe
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  • Ice Cream Sextet
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  • Let Things Be Like They Always Was
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  • Wrapped in a Ribbon and Tied in a Bow
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  • Lonely House
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  • Wouldn't You Like to Be on Broadway?
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  • What Good Would the Moon Be?
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  • Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed
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  • Remember That I Care
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  • Catch Me if You Can
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  • There'll be Trouble
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  • A Boy Like You
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  • We'll Go Away Together
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  • The Woman Who Lived Up There
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  • Lullaby
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  • I Loved Her Too
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  • Don't Forget the Lilac Bush
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  • Cast

    • Singing Roles

      • Anna Maurrant (dramatic soprano)
      • Frank Maurrant, (bass-baritone)
      • Willie Maurrant (boy soprano)
      • Rose Maurrant (lyric soprano)
      • Sam Kaplan (tenor)
      • Abraham Kaplan (tenor buffo)
      • Harry Easter (Broadway baritone)
      • Henry Davis (baritone)
      • Lippo Fiorentino (tenor)
      • George Jones (baritone)
      • Carl Olsen (bass)
      • Mrs. Fiorentino (coloratura soprano)
      • Mrs. Jones (mezzo-soprano)
      • Mrs. Olsen (alto)
      • Daniel Buchanan (buffo tenor)
      • Jenny Hildebrand (soprano)
      • 2nd graduate (soprano)
      • 3rd graduate (mezzo-soprano)
      • Mrs. Hildebrand (mezzo-soprano)
      • Nursemaids (soprano, mezzo-soprano)
      • Three children
      • Dick McGann (singer-dancer)
      • Mae Jones (singer-dancer)
    • Non-Singing Roles

      • Mrs. Jones
      • Steve Sankey
      • Shirley Kaplan
      • Vincent Jones
      • Dr. Wilson
      • Officer Murphy
      • City marshal
      • Fred Cullen
      • Milkman
      • Policeman
      • Old clothes man
      • Intern
      • Ambulance driver
      • Married couple
      • Passerby, neighbors, children
  • Instrumentation

    • Flute (picc)
    • Oboe
    • 2 Clarinets
    • Bass clarinet (cl)
    • Bassoon
    • 2 French horns
    • 2 Trumpets
    • 2 Trombones
    • Piano (celesta)
    • Harp
    • Timpani & percussion
    • Strings

Piano-vocal score
Chappell Music/Hal Leonard HL00312405

  • German

    • Lys Symonette

  • Street Scenes 2000

    Concert sequence from Street Scene devised by Lys Symonette and Kim Kowalke for five vocal soloists, optional mixed chorus, and orchestra.

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