3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
'Die Silbersee' (the Silver Lake), Kurt Weill's first major work after his split with Bertolt Brecht, is a strange mixture of Gothic and political allegory, a sort of leftist 'Fidelio'. It tells the story of unemployed Severin, shot after robbing a food store by policeman Olim. Consumed (arf!) by guilt, Olim, now a lottery winner, takes Severin into his castle in an attempt to expiate his crime, but Severin is crazed with thoughts of vengeance against his malefactor. A plot involving scheming, ex-aristocratic servants, sees Olim locked in the attic and Severin chained in the basement.
Where Brecht wielded his merciless satire with the lightness and swiftness of a stabbing, Georg Kaiser's libretto for 'Die Silbersee' is vague and turgid, with a more typically Teutonic mysticism and more concern for the abstraction 'humanity' than the individual. This can have an adverse effect on Weill's musical writing, which is heavier, almost more 'Romantic', than his famous collaborations with Brecht. The rigid call and response tableaux written by Kaiser create a static drama, very similar to sacred music, with the choir, supposedly representing mankind, both fugal and ethereal.
Any yet there is much in 'Die Silbersee' of the old Weill to thrill us - the propulsive, skittish rhythms and keening, slashing strings. The most conventionally beautiful music - melodious, waltz-like, even sentimental - belongs, significantly, to the ideologically suspect, which may only confirm that the devil has the best tunes. But, overall, Weill manages to creat a compelling tension between a laborious, monolithic, monotonous libretto, and music so disturbing, dark and rich as to be more rite than opera.
(Note: you might be interested to know that 'Die Silbersee' in its original form (premiered by Douglas Sirk in Leipzig, film fans!) is unworkable: too much difficult music for singing actors, too long a play for opera singers. The present recording is a working version devised by David Drew and Josef Heinselmann for a German radio broadcast in 1989, keeping the dialogue to the minimum necessary to follow the plot. Few will mourn such economy).
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Darryl K. Clark
- Published on Amazon.com
because the recording i purchased was missing its libretto, i could not tell you what this opera-bouffe is about at all.
what i can tell you is this: kurt weill could spin some enchanting melodies and encase them in the deepest, richest harmonies! some parts of the piece are incredibly acrid and stinging, while others are sweet and slightly sentimental.
one day, someone will write a piece that bridges that gap between weill and maurice ravel. while two men could be no more dissimilar, theeir career accomplishments meet and weave against each other's in the most interesting of ways. they were both able to spin melodies that were pleasing to the ear no matter the demand, and both were fascinated with popular music forms, folk songs and theater. but weill's contribution to theater in germany was so subversive, while ravel's contributions to theater in france made hardly an impression. weill could wrote for ballet but didn't--per se. after all, how many ballet companies perform 'seven deadly sins'? ravel did and created some of the most famous dance scores of the 20th century. weill would get to the usa and wage various assaults on the american musical; ravel's effect on harmony would be felt on popular music to a great degree.
what do you know about that? i've started that essay.
but back to the matter at hand. if you are interested in building a collection of weill on cd, go for it. but, prioritize. buy a good performance of his more well-known operas like 'dreigroschenoper' or 'rise and fall of the city of mahagonny' and then go to the musicals. then come back and pick up 'der silbersee'. if you're lucky, you'll get a libretto as well.