Berlin To Broadway With Kurt Weill by Skylark Opera

Bradley Greenwald, Chrsitina Baldwin and Dieter Bierbrauer in Berlin To Broadway Wih Kurt Weill

Bradley Greenwald, Chrsitina Baldwin and Dieter Bierbrauer in Berlin To Broadway Wih Kurt Weill. Photo by Matthew Bellin.

Among the pleasures – there are many – of Skylark Opera‘s lovely Berlin To Broadway With Kurt Weill (at Concordia’s E.M. Pearson Theatre through June 21) is the nifty comparison it provides between Weill’s gritty and soaring European music with his elegant American output. A genuine musical chameleon was Weill; it astonishes that so much gorgeousness emerged from the same pen.

Weill’s work in Weimar Germany was largely with the blunt, left-leaning, cigar-chomping Bertolt Brecht and the music he created honors Brecht’s crusty spirit: frenzied, energized, vivid. Yet always balanced by Weill’s steely control, his sure grasp of melody: “Mack The Knife,” “Surabaya Johnny” (“Take that damn pipe out of your mouth, you rat” she breathes), “Alabama Song,” “Bilbao,” et al.

For these songs, Brecht wrote in a vibrant and muscular German that still astonishes. The talented and accomplished Skylark singers perform the music in English. A loss. Still, we are fortunate to have first rate English translations, by Marc Blitzstein and Michael Feingold and Skylark happily utilizes them. (Wanna listen to the songs in Brecht’s sinewy German? Check out the terrific CD Ute Lemper Singt Kurt Weill.)

Then came the National Socialists and Weill found himself forced to flee, first to Paris, then to New York. Act 2 focuses on Weill’s Broadway work, and here the composer was collaborating with accomplished artists like Ira Gershwin, Ogden Nash, Maxwell Anderson, Alan Lerner. The music reflects their presence; it’s refined (“My Ship”), literate (is there a more polished, yet ardent song than “That’s Him”?), bittersweet (“September Song”). Wonderful.

For Berlin To Broadway With Kurt Weill, Skylark has assembled a boffo ensemble: the uber-marvelous Bradley Greenwald; the poised Christina Baldwin, she of the impish grin; the passionate and operatic Vicki Fingalson (her voice floats, effortlessly); the quietly powerful Dieter Bierbrauer. Excellent actors and fabulous singers, to a person. The show was staged by the estimable Wendy Knox.

For my dough, Kurt Weill is the best theater composer of the 20th century (with Sondheim and Richard Rodgers running just behind). Here’s your chance to see the whole range of his oeuvre performed by outstanding singers. Don’t miss it; there are only two more performances.

Given the time strictures, was unable to review Candide, which runs in rep with Berlin To Broadway. Given the pedigree of the artists involved – Gary Briggle, Jennifer Baldwin Peden, Peter Middlecamp, Jennifer Maren et al (there isn’t room to list everyone) performing Leonard Bernstein‘s amazing piece, well, one bets you can’t go wrong.

For more info about John Olive please visit his website.

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