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The Threepenny Opera

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Kurt Weill's career took him from Weimar Germany to New York, from high modernism to the Broadway musical, and naturally enough, his biggest hit, Die Dreigroschenoper "The Threepenny Opera", made a similar transition. An early attempt to replicate the success of the 1928 original in America failed, but Marc Blitzstein's 1954 adaptation four years after Weill's death became a smash off-Broadway success and the longest-running musical of its time. Preparing an English version of the Weill/Brecht collaboration must have been a daunting task, but it was an essential one: No matter how perfectly wedded Weill's sardonic music was to the guttural consonants of the German ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Kurt Weill's career took him from Weimar Germany to New York, from high modernism to the Broadway musical, and naturally enough, his biggest hit, Die Dreigroschenoper "The Threepenny Opera", made a similar transition. An early attempt to replicate the success of the 1928 original in America failed, but Marc Blitzstein's 1954 adaptation four years after Weill's death became a smash off-Broadway success and the longest-running musical of its time. Preparing an English version of the Weill/Brecht collaboration must have been a daunting task, but it was an essential one: No matter how perfectly wedded Weill's sardonic music was to the guttural consonants of the German tongue, Brecht's caustic and politically provocative lyrics cry out to be understood in the language of the audience. Blitzstein of The Cradle Will Rock fame, sympathetic both to Brecht's politics and the high/low mélange of Weill's music, was a natural to create an American version of the play. Though he's sometimes criticized for toning down the sex and violence of the original, Blitzstein actually made many of these changes in response to record label censorship during the recording of this cast album, not in his original, more faithful adaptation. In arranging the music, Blitzstein smoothed off the edges a bit, finding a middle ground between Weill's woodwind-and-brass astringency and a more conventional Broadway sound. The singers split the difference too. Obviously, the presence of Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya, granted the project enormous legitimacy, and a young Bea Arthur seems primed to follow Lenya's illustriously gravelly example, although Scott Merrill as Macheath or Mack the Knife doesn't quite dig in with the nastiness that the music calls for. Lenya created the role of Polly in the German original; here she's matured into the part of Jenny, but she steals Polly's best song, "Pirate Jenny." A year after this 1954 recording, Lenya would make her classic album of Weill's Berlin Theatre Songs, including German versions of songs from Die Dreigroschenoper and much else. The other principals -- Martin Wolfson, Charlotte Rae, and Jo Sullivan -- contribute memorable performances that testify to the boldness and merit of this revival and make clear the reasons for its popularity. There's no doubt that Weill would have approved. A never-before released bonus track completes this newly remastered recording: Lenya rousing live performance of "Mack the Knife," accompanied by Blitzstein at the piano, makes for a perfect encore to this evening in the theater.
All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
Die Dreigroschenoper, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's radical reinterpretation of John Gay's 18th century operetta The Beggar's Opera, was a sensation in Europe after its German premiere in 1928. But the show, with its decadent portrait of the underworld, was less appealing to Americans when it appeared as The Threepenny Opera on Broadway in 1933 and became a quick flop. It took another 21 years and a new English adaptation by Marc Blitzstein for The Threepenny Opera to succeed in New York. Playing at a small Greenwich Village theater, the new version ran 2,611 performances longer than any Broadway musical up to that time, meanwhile establishing off-Broadway as a legitimate extension of the theater. The cast album, the first such recording ever made of an off-Broadway show, suggests what it was that packed them in downtown. The music is played by an eight-piece band -- keyboards, two clarinets, two trumpets, trombone, percussion, and banjo or guitar -- making for spare arrangements that support the heavily literate songs in which Brecht comments sardonically on the world. The cast is led by a strong Polly Peachum, sung by soprano Jo Sullivan, and by Lotte Lenya Weill's widow in the role of Jenny Towler, here given the revenge fantasy "Pirate Jenny." Gerald Price confidently handles "The Ballad of Mack the Knife," soon to become a surprising pop hit.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/29/2000
  • Label: Decca Broadway
  • UPC: 601215946321
  • Catalog Number: 159463
  • Sales rank: 5,083

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Prologue - Gerald H. Price (0:17)
  2. 2 Overture - Threepenny Opera Orchestra (1:54)
  3. 3 The Ballad of Mac the Knife - Gerald H. Price (3:19)
  4. 4 Morning Anthem (0:49)
  5. 5 Instead-Of-Song - Charlotte Rae (1:51)
  6. 6 Army Song (2:15)
  7. 7 Wedding Song (1:06)
  8. 8 Love Song (1:57)
  9. 9 Ballad of Dependency - Charlotte Rae (2:17)
  10. 10 The World Is Mean - Charlotte Rae (2:45)
  11. 11 Melodrama and Polly's Song (2:32)
  12. 12 Pirate Jenny (4:03)
  13. 13 Tango Ballad (4:35)
  14. 14 Ballad of the Easy Life (1:42)
  15. 15 Barbara Song (3:17)
  16. 16 Jealousy Duet (2:21)
  17. 17 How to Survive - Charlotte Rae (3:13)
  18. 18 Useless Song (0:43)
  19. 19 Solomon Song (2:36)
  20. 20 Call from the Grave (3:22)
  21. 21 Death Message (3:01)
  22. 22 Finale: The Mounted Messanger - William Duell (3:05)
  23. 23 The Ballad of Mac the Knife (2:38)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Marc Blitzstein Piano
Lotte Lenya Vocals
John Astin Vocals
Charles Russo Clarinet
Chuck Smith Vocals
Bea Arthur Vocals
Paul Dooley Vocals
Samuel Matlowsky Piano, Conductor, Musical Direction
Jo Sullivan Vocals
Ensemble Track Performer
Martin Wolfson Vocals
Gerald H. Price Vocals
Gerrianne Raphael Vocals
Threepenny Opera Orchestra Performing Ensemble
Ralph Colicchio Banjo, Guitar
Charlotte Rae Vocals
Technical Credits
Marc Blitzstein Composer, Author, translation, Lyric Adaptations, English Translations
Kurt Weill Composer, Orchestration, Original Orchestration
Bertolt Brecht Composer, Text
Greg Calbi Mastering
Val Valentin Director Of Engineering
Penny Bennett Art Direction
Stanley Green Liner Notes
Samuel Matlowsky Musical Director
Brian Drutman Producer, Reissue Producer
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