Various Artists

The Threepenny Opera [Membran]

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Though no original cast recording was made of the first production of composer Kurt Weill and lyricist Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera in Germany in 1928, four members of the original cast -- Lotte Lenya, Kurt Gerron, Erich Ponto, and Erika Helmke -- joined by Willy Trenk-Trebitsch from the original Prague cast and the Lewis Ruth Band conducted by Theo Mackeben (who had provided the instrumental accompaniment to the first production) came together in a German recording studio on December 7, 1930, and cut 13 selections from the score, which were released initially as a four-disc 78 rpm set. The recording is long-since out of copyright in Europe, which has led to frequent reissues by various record labels. (Among these are The Threepenny Opera/Berlin 1930 on Teldec and The Collector's The Threepenny Opera on VAI.) Since the 13 tracks run only about 28 minutes, the reissues add bonus material of various sorts. This budget version issued by the German Membran label includes a nine-and-a-half-minute suite of material from another Weill-Brecht show, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (including the famous "Alabama Song") performed by Lenya and others; "Bilbao Song" from Weill and Brecht's first show, Happy End, performed by Lenya; and two numbers from The Threepenny Opera performed with relish by Brecht himself. The incidental songs are entertaining, but the real draw here is the material from The Threepenny Opera. The performers have a strong sense of the spirit and meaning of the show, and Brecht's spoken introductions give an idea of the production as a whole. These recordings, either on this CD or another, have considerable historical importance, as well as presenting an impressive early interpretation of the score of The Threepenny Opera in the original German.