The son of a cantor, Kurt Weill was one of the 20th-century lyric stage's great innovative geniuses. With Die Dreigroschenoper, he and collaborator Bertolt Brecht (and Brecht's often unacknowledged partner Elisabeth Hauptmann) created a cultural landmark that is still the most resonant emblem of the heady days of the Weimar Republic.
Although Brecht has usually taken the limelight for his acerbic social satire of bourgeois complacency - adapting the 18th-century John Gay's original Threepenny Opera, itself a parody of operatic conventions - Weill's sly amalgam of jazz, cabaret, and art song idioms vividly colors the work as one unforgettable number follows the next. While Brückner-Rüggeberg's 1958 recording has long held pride of place due to the authority of Lotte Lenya--Weill's original Jenny and lifelong muse--this 1990 release is a strong competitor and perhaps an even better introduction to the work.
John Mauceri, a passionate advocate of Weill's less well-known works for the Broadway stage, achieves a tight sense of ensemble from the composer's iconoclastic scoring and gives the abrupt transitions of the piece a highly effective, jagged-edged quality. The spoken part of the text is drastically cut, and on the issue of which musical direction to pursue - operatic technique or cabaret campiness - this version sensibly recognizes the diversity of authentic Weill performing styles, making room in its cast for the classically trained Helga Dernesch and René Kollo as well as Ute Lemper's cabaret smarts. The result is engrossing and gives the spotlight to Threepenny Opera's subversive blend of irony and humor.
Kurt Weill - Die Dreigroschenoper - RIAS Berlin Sinfonietta
(192 kpbs, front cover included)