Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera
This German-language studio cast recording of The Threepenny Opera, made in Frankfurt in 1999 with the Ensemble Modern conducted by HK Gruber, reflects the newly published official Kurt Weill Edition prepared by Stephen Hinton and Edward Harsh for the Weill estate. As Hinton makes clear in his liner notes, the work has existed in various versions since its premiere in Berlin in 1928, and this one doesn't so much resolve the conflicts as elucidate them. Hinton has opted to include "Lucy's Aria," written for the show but not used originally because it was beyond the range of the actress cast in the role, only as a supplement at the end of the second disc, while he has included other material, notably "Ballad of the Prisoner of Sexuality," which was eliminated because the actress initially playing Mrs. Peachum refused to sing it, in the body of the musical. (German rock singer Nina Hagen, portraying Mrs. Peachum here, has no such scruples and performs the song with gusto.) Even less standard for this standard edition, Hinton has adapted spoken introductions to the songs written by lyricist Bertolt Brecht, but never previously used, to link the songs, otherwise eliminating most of the dialogue, for what would work as a concert version of the show rather than a theatrical staging. It also makes for a highly listenable recording and one that allows for some understanding of the contours of the plot, especially for those who understand German, although a complete English translation is provided in the CD booklet. Along with Hagen, Max Raabe makes an effective Macheath, while conductor Gruber steps in to play Mr. Peachum with evident relish.