Various Artists

The Threepenny Opera/Berlin 1930

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Though no original cast recording was made of the first production of Kurt Weill and 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 Willi 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. Those recordings begin this 1990 compilation, which concludes with four selections recorded on November 27, 1930, by the cast of the French version of G.W. Pabst's 1931 film version of The Threepenny Opera. The seven tracks in between include two songs from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogonny sung by Lenya from a single released prior to that show's premiere in 1930 and five other German songs of the period, two of them sung by Marlene Dietrich. 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. Extensive sound restoration has made the tracks clean and striking, if not of a quality level to match contemporary recordings. This album has considerable historical importance, as well as being an impressive early interpretation of the score of The Threepenny Opera in the original German.

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