Sunday, July 09, 2006

Returning Brecht and Weill

This was a summer that seemed to be brimming with Brecht and Weill, not a return exactly since they've never been out of my life, but a reaffirmation of their relevance. I didn't have very high expectations for the Threepenny Opera revival in New York that I saw in May, but rarely have I felt a production so insulted and missed the point of the original. I was born too late for the Berlin or 1950s production but have seen it many times and grew up on the 1976 version with what I consider to be the definitive translation. I can even wade throu the Pabst movie adaptation since it at least features Lenya. Having seen this inferior revival and with English lyrics, I was skeptical of the ACT mounting of Happy End, rarely performed follow-up to Dreigrossenoper/Threepenny Opera. So it was a thrill that even though I was disappointed to see it in English, it was so powerful. Brilliant singing, a decent reworking of the chaotic Brecht script and clever staging made it the best live theater I've ever seen in San Francisco. Considering the venue that's not saying much, but I think it was one of the best theatrical events I've seen in 20 years. Several times over the past year I have heard how "Pirate Jenny" (and, oddly Judy Garland singing "The Man That Got Away") was a major influence on Bob Dylan. What I've not heard was if it was Lenya's rendetion of that tune that most influence him. Of course, Nina Simone to Marianne Faith have since covered it, but her German original is still the definitive version.


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