The composer Kurt Weill was born today March 2 1900. Best known for his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht on The Threepenny Opera,Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Der Jasager and The 7 Deadly Sins, Weill was a committed socialist, who believed music must serve a socially useful purpose. However, it was politics that eventually split the brilliant partnership of Brecht and Weill, as the musician felt the playwright was pushing too far to the left without question, or as Weill joked, he felt unable to set the Communist Party Manifesto to music.
Weill was married to the brilliant actress and singer, Lotte Lenya, who starred in The Threepenny Opera and later played the SMERSH assassin, Rosa Klebb in the Bond movie, From Russia With Love. With the rise of Hitler, the couple quit Germany and moved to America, where they worked in Hollywood (as did Brecht).
Though Weill’s music is best associated with cabaret and political theater of Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s (influencing John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical Cabaret), he also wrote two symphonies, several cantatas, a great number of songs, set the poetry of Rilke and Walt Whitman’s Song of Myslef to music, and worked with Ira Gershwin on the Hollywood musical Where Do We Go From Here?. Weill died of a heart attack in 1950.
To celebrate Weill’s birthday, here is the brilliant Lenya from 1962, in fine form, singing a selection of her husband’s best known songs “Mack the Knife”, “Pirate Jenny”, “Sarabaya Johnny” and “Alabama Song”. This clip has sub-titles, but that’s unimportant, when compared to the quality of her voice and performance. The production was filmed by Ken Russell for the BBC’s arts series Monitor, and the segment was introduced by legendary arts editor, Huw Weldon.
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Posted by Paul Gallagher |
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