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Weill: Die Dreigroschenoper

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Conductor: Heinz Karl Gruber
  • Composer: Kurt Weill
  • Audio CD (Oct. 11 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: RCA Red Seal/Bmg
  • ASIN: B00001R3MQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #217,260 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description


The Threepenny Opera is Kurt Weill's most popular work. Its signature song, "Mack the Knife," is a cultural artifact, sung and played in virtually all musical genres. Many of us are permanently imprinted with Lotte Lenya's Sony recording of the opera, so redolent of the decadent, world-weary spirit of the Weimar Republic. This new recording misses some of that spirit but has other, compensating virtues. One is the restoration of the original score in the new Kurt Weill Edition that uses the original instrumentation, adds or deletes numbers, and includes Bertolt Brecht's plot summaries prepared for a 1940 concert version. Other pluses include Max Raabe's oddly sympathetic Macheath and H.K. Gruber's Mr. Peachum, both well-sung characterizations, and Ensemble Modern's virtuoso performance, full of drive and enthusiasm. The sound is wide-ranging and impactful. With one exception, the rest of the cast ranges from good to acceptable. But punk rocker Nina Hagen's Mrs. Peachum is truly awful, with cackles and shrieks galore--a monumental piece of miscasting. So while this recording cannot displace the Lenya version, it's a welcome supplement, adding new dimensions to a familiar and beloved work. --Dan Davis

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I enjoyed this RCA recording (with one major exeption) until I heard the Decca Mauceri recording. It is a straightforward performance of the new Weill edition with the Lucy's aria appended at the end of the recording. One can understand why it was omitted from the original production. But it is nice to have. Most of the performers are well up to the task and enjoyable, if not inspiring. However, Hagen's Frau Peachum is so horrible I must conclude that her vocal production was an artistic (or inartistic) choice for the purpose of characterization. While Frau Peachum is not an admirable character she is not a monster. Hagen's throaty, abrasive screeching (I would prefer Alice Cooper) of this music does herself, the character, and the music nothing but disgrace. This character has some of the best music in the work and is intended for a low contralto who has to struggle for the upper notes. For a correct rendition listen to Helga Dernesh in the Mauceri recording. The discomfort is built into the music, but Hagen's rendition is only unlistenable. I don't listen to this otherwise enjoyable recording very often, because I anticipate the pain that is inflicted by this artistic mistake. The best description is vocal regurgitation. For completeness, quality of performance, and scholarly attention to detail of the new Weill edition, buy the Mauceri on Decca. That performance is truly difinitive. Gruber's RCA recording gives very little more except more dialog and takes two CD's. The Mauceri has all of the music plus one more musical inclusion (a reprise of Seerauber Jenny by the superb Milva as Jenny in Act 2 in addition to Lemper's equally superb but different Polly rendition in Act 1) as well as limited but sufficient dialog and on only one CD: a bargain as well as a subtle, musical and nuanced performance.
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Format: Audio CD
This recording is of the definitive version of THE THREEPENNY OPERA, the masterpiece of the musical theatre, the antiscendant of the modern book musical. The Ensemble Modern of Frankfurt gives a refreshing orchestral performance, and a lot of what they do is very revealing to the original intentions of Weill's music. As for performances . . . Max Raabe has a very refreshing tenor voice, and -- oddly enough -- he is assigned the "Moritat von Mackie Messer" to sing, but he sings it well, so all is forgiven. Everyone criticsizes Nina Hagen's singing on this album, but really, was Brecht known for casting good singers in his shows? No, he looked for strong actors and exciting performers, and Ms. Hagen is definately one of those. H.K. "Nali" Gruber is just about the only performer that I can recognize as being brilliant. He is just as brilliant here as he is on the RCA release of Weill's DER SILBERSEE. And given the fact that he also had to tackle conducting the Ensemble Modern, we known that this one multi-talented individual. Polly is also very talented. The one performer that I have a problem with on this recording is the actress playing Spelunken-Jenny. She seems unsure of herself in her singing, and her voice wobbles and crackles. Obviously, no great singer is needed to play Jenny (i.e., Lotte Lenya and the actress from the 1994 Donmar Warehouse production), but their performance skills or acting always make up for this. But as this is just a recording, this Jenny leaves me cold (but maybe that is okay -- Brecht is not the type to leave you with a warm, runny feeling inside after you leave the theatre).Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
I have the Lotte Lenya/Sony recording from the 1970s on CD. The present version IMHO is an overall sonic and performance improvement over that original. The tempos are brisk, but never too fast. The orchestra is recorded close and clear, but never too close to overpower the singers. (In the Lotte recording, the tempos seemed a bit too relaxed, and the rhythm section sounded murky and formless--probably the work was recorded live in a large echo-y performance hall or studio.)
What keeps me from rating this performance 5 stars lie in the area of overall aesthetic intention. Although I hearily enjoyed this performance, I am haunted by the prospect of radically objectivist customers condemning the recording on the grounds that Brecht and Weill didn't intend to generate a "realistic" (therefore, illusionist) portrayal of these ruthless characters. It is obvious, that this performance relishes in dramatic/realistic vocalises and in some cases (especially, in the Wedding Song) seem to joyfully engage in some character editorializing, hardly adhering the prevailing practice of letting the words and the irony speak for itself. By the end of the opera, one can almost "feel" MacHeath's feigned regret and obvious rage during his trial and conviction ('Blasphemy! ' I hear the purists).
Personally, I admire the general pseudo-realism (and I am currently looking for a good English version of this fine work), but all in all, the licenses taken by Gruber, Hagen, et al. may be somewhat offensive to the average objectivist Brecht/early Weill syncophant.
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