Lotte Lenya

Opera and Cabaret

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This compilation is basically an expanded version of the 1958 Lotte Lenya LP September Song and Other American Theatre Songs of Kurt Weill, beginning with the 12 songs from that album, presented here in stereo for the first time. After the addition of the previously unreleased "Song of Ruth" (from The Eternal Road), also recorded at the original August 1957 sessions for the LP, the CD also includes the three songs Lenya performed on the original cast album for the 1962 Off-Broadway musical revue Brecht on Brecht; the four songs she performed on the original Broadway cast album for the 1966 musical Cabaret; and two versions of "Mack the Knife" recorded with jazz musicians in 1955. The disc might have been called "Lotte Lenya Sings in English," except for two tracks, "Song" from Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, and the version of "Mack the Knife" (aka "Moritat vom Mackie Messer") performed with Turk Murphy, both of which she sings in German. As such, the collection presents Lenya outside her comfort zone. She was the definitive interpreter of Weill's songs in German, but is heard here in accented English, sometimes singing songs for which others have done more memorable treatments, including "September Song," "Saga of Jenny," "Speak Low," and "Lost in the Stars." With her limited range, she is not the best interpreter of this material, and she does better with the less familiar songs, such as "Sing Me Not a Ballad," which actually was written for her to sing in the unsuccessful operetta The Firebrand of Florence, and the Cabaret songs, also crafted to her voice by John Kander. At the end of the album, her duet with Louis Armstrong on "Mack the Knife" is a study in contrasting styles, especially during the studio outtakes, which find Lenya gamely trying to adapt to Armstrong's different approach to a song she had been singing her own way for decades.