Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Tom Hollander|
The Threepenny Opera (1994 London Donmar Warehouse Cast)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
The Threepenny "Problem"
lytlprinse | 01/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Donmar Warehouse's recording of "The Threepenny Opera" is really the ONLY English-language version of the play that comes close to Brecht's true intensions - to present social comment and criticism in a totally-theatrical, non-illusionistic way. This is the "problem" with most people's understandings of Brecht, and "Threepenny" in particular. When watching Brecht, you should be thinking, "What is Brecht trying to say to us? What is he trying to tell us by showing this story?" You shouldn't empathise with the characters - you should learn something about what they do and how it relates to you. It may sound cold or uncaring or not very dramatically engaging, but that's what Brecht was interested in experimenting with and presenting. (It must be noted, too, that "Threepenny" is an early "experiment" of Brecht's in epic, social theater, and is FAR from being a perfect theatrical experience.)Audiences who are familiar with the old off-Broadway revival recording will notice that the romance and milieu of the story are gone - romance and milieu were NOT Brecht's goal. These were introduced by shoddy English translations of the original German. The most notorious of these translations is, ironically, the one best known - Eric Bentley's sugar-coated, illusionistic version. The only version truly authorized by Brecht's estate was penned by Mannheim and Willett, whose work can be heard on the Richard Foreman revival recording of the show starring Raul Julia and Ellen Green. Even the original G.W. Pabst film of "Threepenny" missed the point, and was disavowed by Brecht since it fell into the trap of being an illusionistic story - ie. you were supposed to "believe" what was happening and like the characters. The film version of the Foreman revival (sometimes called "Mack the Knife") fell into the same trap (don't rent it - Brecht aside, even as far as musicals go, it is embarrassing.) As for the swearing and foul language, you need look no further than Brecht himself to find it - the original German text is peppered with slang, slurs, and less-than savory language. And regarding the modernization of the piece - I think it actually works, since it is in Brecht's vain. Brecht was always modernizing and reworking classical plays (eg. "The Duchess of Malfi" and "Edward II"), and the original "Threepenny" is really an updated, contemporized, overhauled version of John Gay's "Beggar's Opera" anyway. Brecht was not always as original as some would think - he borrowed, reworked, and even stole ideas from everywhere to work into his own plays.It was Donmar Warehouse's intention of producing "Threepenny" as Brecht wrote and intended it to be performed. Having studied the play and even directed some of Brecht's other work, I must admit they did a capable job. To people who are first being introduced to Brecht, this is the most authentic way - and the way Brecht intended you to see it. It may not be "pretty," "sweet," or "romantic," but remember - it's not SUPPOSED to be! In the end, it comes down to this - if you want an old-fashioned musical with romance and a happy ending, watch "Show Boat;" if you want an epic theater that presents important or diverse comments on society, the hierarchical order, love, and duty, check out Brecht and "Threepenny.""
A very interesting recording . . .
Sean | LOOK | 06/27/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Brecht and Weill would be proud of this recording, particularly Brecht. It captures all of the unsentimental nuances of the original work. This version of the "Moritat von Mackie Messer" (here, "The Flick-Knife Song") differs from all other versions, in as far as it doesn't have the air of fun to it that all of the other versions of this song have had. The English lyrics to this song (and most of the other songs) bear no relation to the original German text, however, they do capture Brecht's intentions. Mack's crimes were bloody, heartless, and with an "intention" that only he saw (indeed, Mack the Knife is not Robin Hood). This Polly can get very awful in the noises she makes, but Brecht wasn't known for casting good singers (in fact, he was known for quite the opposite), so it's okay. The "Jealousy Duet" here is hilarious. The orchestra has that "threepenny quality" that it needs, and I'm sure that this was a stupendous production. There are a few things about this recording that bug me, among them the tempos and some musical deletions, but this recording was done more as a presentation of the production, as opposed to a representation of the score. The highlight of this recording is Jenny, who is a marvel on everything she does ("The Knocking-Shop Tango," "The Flick-Knife Song," and "The Socrates Song"). She is accompanied by a very able Macheath, and a very funny Mrs. Peachum, and an accomplished Mr. Peachum.So, over all, buy this to get a taste for this production, but not if you are looking for a straight-forward presentation of the real Brecht-Weill masterpiece, THE THREEPENNY OPERA."
The truest Threepenny experience I've ever had
thesnark | Astoria, NY USA | 11/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Donmar production is to be congratulated-- their Threepenny is a scream from hell. In setting this production in the present/near future, they have driven home the issues even further than the Foreman version does. Mac is no longer an orientalized rogue from the past; he is a cutting edge serial killer and rapist who works in collusion with the police. Jeremy Sams's lyrics capture the spirit of the piece perfectly-- they are harrowing. If you are looking for Brecht in its rawest, most meaningful form, it's on this cd."