DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER
L'OPÉRA DE QUAT' SOUS
THREEPENNY OPERA
(and other songs from Berlin of the 1930s)


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A TELDEC - ATLANTIC RECORDING / FANFAIRE CD GIVEAWAY
DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER Berlin 1930
Released Jan 28, 2003 - TELDEC CLASSICS # 0927 42663 2


Surely, you could name that tune? [Of course, it's MACK, the KNIFE!]
But could that tune have come from a tongue-twister of a German quasi-opera (actually it's more appropriately a "play with music", containing spoken dialogue and lots of verse-song) - DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER?

In fact, it did - courtesy of the composer KURT WEILL (right) in collaboration with the playwright/poet BERTOLT BRECHT (left).

And does not the distinct cabaret-genre quality of the tune take you back to Berlin of the late 1920s, early 1930s? Which was when DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER (the main theme of this CD), took all of Germany by storm soon after its premiere in 1928 until 1933 when it was banned by the Nazis, along with Weill and the entire Berlin entertainment scene. Of course we all know that eventually the rest of the world was hooked on the tuneful ballad of MACK, THE KNIFE or "MACKIE MESSERr" ( <--click to hear the original version - track 1: Ouvertüre und Moritat von Mackie Messer), which in America took on a life of its own in the versions popularized by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and (in a departure from the usual performance by a male singer) Ella Fitzgerald*

The version of DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER (or THREEPENNY OPERA) on this digitally remastered CD was recorded in Berlin in December 1930 under the Ultraphon (and later, Telefunken) label. The first ever recording of what later became Weill's most popular score features highlights of the original 1928 production and - with only one exception - the original cast, including Weill's wife, the actress LOTTE LENYA (left, as JENNY the whore) who in an alteration of the original performance sings both the roles of JENNY [track 2: Seeräuberjenny - to be later known in English-speaking world as Pirate Jenny] and Mack's wife POLLY [track 5: Barbara Song]. The role is sung in a child-like high soprano , exemplifying Weill's "roaring twenties" song style. Another alteration is the spoken text that Brecht later wrote to introduce each highlight.

While the very whistleable tunes were a product of Weill's musical imagination, the character of Mack, the knife (or Macheath) goes back to 1728 - to John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera." This iconoclastic "ballad opera," in wittily depicting the low-life of the criminal world, poked fun at (the then fashionable) Italian opera seria - bringing it down and with it the mighty house of Handel. Weill and Brecht's high-art adaptation 200 years later transported Macheath to the low-life of thieves, whores and hooligans of 1920s Berlin - musically attacking the pompous grandeur of Wagner-like music-theatre while unsettling the bourgeoisie and the self-appointed arbiters of German culture. French versions of some of the songs likewise recorded in 1930 are also included.

The CD, which celebrates Teldec's Telefunken Legacy, also includes other songs from the period, notably two selections from Weill and Brecht's true opera, written for opera singers: AUFSTIEG UND FALL DER STADT MAHAGONNY (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). The work is an anti-capitalist satire about men stranded in an American desert who decide to build themselves a city of pleasure founded on the guiding philosophy of "every man for himself" - inevitably leading to corruption, chaos and self-destruction. Musically, it is a potpourri of operetta, ragtime and pop. In the Berlin and later productions, LOTTE LENYA took on the role of JENNY [track 14: Wie man sich bettet (As you make your bed)], the girl Jimmy, the lumberjack, buys for $30!

Songs by Rudolf Nelson, Friedrich Hollaender and Wilhelm Grosz, finish off the CD - all in the cabaret style that Weill popularized. Listen to a clip of MARLENE DIETRICH [track 17: Peter], perhaps the most famous poster girl of the period, as the proverbial "tart" longing for Peter, the best man she's ever had.

This newly remastered CD is a delightful celebration of a musical genre created by legendary musicmakers from a bygone era, and even only for the experience of hearing what the composer himself actually heard in his day, worth having in one's collection. It is handsomely packaged in digipak / booklet form containing the complete lyrics of the songs (in three languages) and loaded with information, pictures and drawings from the period that can only enhance one's enjoyment of the music.

Join ATLANTIC RECORDING and FanFaire's CD GIVEAWAY and celebrate the musicmakers remembered in this, Teldec's Telefunken Legacy!



* from the CD GRAMMY WINNERS - Verve # 314 521 485-2
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