Personalities | Kurt Weill | Modern Era | Classical

(Koort Vil) 1900–50
German/American composer

Weill was influenced by his teacher Busoni, by Stravinsky and by the ideal of Zeitoper (opera on contemporary subjects and themes). In his early, successful stage pieces, including Der Protagonist (‘The Protagonist’, 1926) and Royal Palace (1927), he soon moved towards a style, related to jazz and cabaret, that made him an ideal collaborator with Brecht on Die Dreigroschenoper (‘The Threepenny Opera’, 1928) – an updating of the eighteenth-century Beggar’s Opera – and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (‘Rise and Fall of the city of Mahagonny’, 1929). These were so successful (The Threepenny Opera had 3,000 performances across many theatres in its first year) that Weill could give up his teaching and conducting commitments, but he fled the rise of Hitler, first to Paris, then to the US. Until recently, the works he wrote in the US (Johnny Johnson, Lady in the Dark, Knickerbocker Holiday, Lost in the Stars and others) have been unfavourably compared (in Europe) to his collaborations with Brecht, but serious study of them has suggested that Weill continued to develop, and was no stooge to Broadway and Hollywood.

Recommended Recording:
The Threepenny Opera, soloists, Ensemble Modern (cond) Heinz Karl Gruber (RCA/Sony)

Introduction | Modern Era | Classical
Personalities | Alexander Zemlinsky | Modern Era | Classical


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