January 24, 2022

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A Musical Revival Knits Collectively the two Worlds of Kurt Weill

A Musical Revival Knits Together the 2 Worlds of Kurt Weill

Lower than a mile from the previous workplace of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, “Lady in the Dark,” Kurt Weill’s often-misunderstood 1941 musical about an overworked protagonist who seeks reduction via psychoanalysis, is being staged in Austria for less than the second time within the creator’s native German.

And its theme of profession burnout proved irresistible to the Volksoper, which levels operas, operettas and musicals, in German, on this most tough of instances. There’s a sense of homecoming in a metropolis typically thought of the birthplace of psychoanalysis (Freud’s workplace is now a museum), coupled with a German translation of the unique English lyrics and dialogue for a rating written by Weill, who fled the Nazis.

Actually, “Woman within the Darkish” was one in all Weill’s first Broadway reveals in America, working with the lyricist Ira Gershwin (in a collaboration after the premature demise in 1937 of his composer brother George) and the playwright and prolific director Moss Hart. However this was not some tap-dancing, escapist musical that audiences had come to count on throughout the Nice Melancholy.

“‘Woman within the Darkish’ is groundbreaking as a result of there isn’t a overture and no music to begin the piece,” stated James Holmes, the conductor for this manufacturing and a trustee of the Kurt Weill Basis for Music in New York. “The star of the present comes on as what looks as if a traditional play. There aren’t any swaths of refrain males form of signaling her entrance.”

The musical is the brainchild of Hart, who had been in remedy with Gregory Zilboorg (how about Ernest Hemingway and Lillian Hellman to spherical out your shopper listing?). It tells the story of Liza Elliott, initially performed by Gertrude Lawrence, a discontented editor at a style journal who undergoes psychoanalysis.

Her painful childhood and indecision concerning the males in her life play out in dream sequences, together with a circus and a marriage, however the quiet evaluation scenes are extra like a play, with solely nearly no music and minimal dialogue.

After charming and baffling audiences with its Broadway premiere in 1941 (it ran for greater than a 12 months), the present was tailored right into a 1944 film starring Ginger Rogers that reduce a lot of the rating. The musical then fell right into a form of cult standing within the following a long time, beloved by Weill aficionados, and has largely been sidelined. It stays a problem for audiences — and theater firms — 80 years later.

For Mr. Holmes, this makes “Woman within the Darkish” all of the extra alluring. It shakes up the style through the use of musical numbers later within the present to dive into the character’s psyche, fairly than simply to entertain the viewers from the outset, like most musicals.

“Weill was consistently attempting to reinvent the medium, and ‘Woman’ is a forerunner to idea musicals resembling ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago,’” Mr. Holmes stated, referring to musicals that got here to favor social commentary and private expression over linear construction. “Weill is probably the most human of composers. He was all the time within the glitzy world, however solely insofar because it could be incidental to the story. What him was individuals who have been dispossessed.”

And Weill was no stranger to dispossession. Many see two very distinct phases to his quick life (he died in 1950 at age 50). After large success throughout the Weimar Republic, Weill, who was Jewish, fled Germany simply weeks after Hitler got here to energy in 1933, first to Paris after which to New York.

Weill’s American works are thought of by many to be much less influential and groundbreaking than his early German items, like “The Threepenny Opera” (1928), a scathing satire of capitalism and greed most recognized in popular culture for its ugly central tune, “Mack the Knife,” which, with a perky reorchestration, grew to become a form of lounge-lizard normal.

This notion of Weill’s two phases has all the time been extra obvious in his homeland, the place his legacy — like that of different artists who fled the Nazis — has lengthy been debated.

“Someway many Germans nonetheless suppose he betrayed us by going to America, and I believe there’s a sure vanity over his later American works,” stated the manufacturing’s director, Matthias Davids, who has directed many musicals in his native Germany and all over the world.

“There may be typically a separation between his German and American works,” Mr. Davids stated. “But Weill didn’t see himself as a German composer after the Nazis stated he wasn’t one.”

This concept of two separate careers was disputed for many years, most notably by his spouse and muse, the singer and actress Lotte Lenya, who famously stated: “There aren’t two Weills. There is just one. Or presumably a thousand.”

And this intrigue is a part of what drew the Volksoper to stage the musical for the primary time and to make use of a 2011 German translation from the Hannover Staatsoper by Roman Hinze, who has translated dozens of musicals into German. That is solely the second German-language manufacturing of “Woman within the Darkish,” or “Die Dame im Dunkel,” in Austria (it was carried out by the Raimund Theater in Vienna throughout its 1980-81 season).

“I confess that once I took on the venture, the intestine response was to ask the way it was going to work since Gershwin’s lyrics are very intricate, very rooted within the time with a number of cultural references,” Mr. Holmes stated. “Each translation is by definition a compromise as a result of among the authentic is misplaced.

“However what’s extra necessary is that we’re doing our bit to dispel the parable of the 2 Weills. We’re doing one in all his American musicals in German. That is form of unifying.”

Along with utilizing the newer translation, the Volksoper determined to make a number of changes to the script, although its central theme of emotional and profession fatigue is timeless.

“Eliza is going through burnout, and burnout is a really modern factor since within the Forties no one talked about it,” stated Magdalena Hoisbauer, dramaturge for the Volksoper. “However the authentic ending shouldn’t be so modern. Within the authentic, she provides up her journal job. We’ve adjusted it considerably with a extra fashionable interpretation.”

The collaborators on the Volksoper hope this remodeling of “Lady in the Dark,” which was postponed due to an early December lockdown in Austria however resumed performances on Dec. 13, celebrates the wealthy historical past of psychoanalysis within the nation and Weill in his native language. In addition they hope that the piece, which is scheduled to run via Feb. 1, proves profitable among the many famously refined — and discerning — Viennese.

“You’ll be able to ask taxi drivers a few present in Vienna, and even they may have an opinion about what’s enjoying across the metropolis,” stated Mr. Davids, the director. “It’s a particular world right here.”

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