1954 Off-Broadway Revival Cast

The Threepenny Opera

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Die Dreigroschenoper, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's radical reinterpretation of John Gay's eighteenth century operetta The Beggar's Opera, was a sensation in Europe after its German premiere in 1928. But the show, with its decadent portrait of the underworld, was less appealing to Americans when it appeared as The Threepenny Opera on Broadway in 1933 and became a quick flop. It took another 21 years and a new English adaptation by Marc Blitzstein for The Threepenny Opera to succeed in New York. Playing at a small Greenwich Village theater, the new version ran 2,611 performances (longer than any Broadway musical up to that time), meanwhile establishing off-Broadway as a legitimate extension of the theater. The cast album, the first such recording ever made of an off-Broadway show, suggests what it was that packed them in downtown. The music is played by an eight-piece band -- keyboards, two clarinets, two trumpets, trombone, percussion, and banjo or guitar -- making for spare arrangements that support the heavily literate songs in which Brecht comments sardonically on the world. The cast is led by a strong Polly Peachum, sung by soprano Jo Sullivan, and by Lotte Lenya (Weill's widow) in the role of Jenny Towler, here given the revenge fantasy "Pirate Jenny." Gerald Price confidently handles "The Ballad of Mack the Knife," soon to become a surprising pop hit. In his liner notes to the CD reissue released on August 29, 2000, David Farneth points out that, at the behest of the record company, the score was edited for time and the lyrics bowdlerized on the spot at the one-day April 1954 recording session, which explains why songs like "Tango-Ballad" are far tamer than in the original German or subsequent English translations made in more permissive times. But this is still the definitive version of the work in English and remains the best-known recording of Weill's most successful score. [The 2000 CD reissue re-sequences the songs in the order they were actually performed and adds as a bonus a performance of "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" done by Lenya accompanied by Blitzstein at the piano.]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 0:17 Amazon
2 1:54 Amazon
3 3:19
4 0:49 Amazon
5 1:51 Amazon
6 2:15 Amazon
7 1:06 Amazon
8 1:57 Amazon
9 2:17 Amazon
10 2:45 Amazon
11
2:32 Amazon
12 4:03 Amazon
13 4:35 Amazon
14 1:42 Amazon
15 3:17 Amazon
16 2:21 Amazon
17 3:13 Amazon
18 0:43 Amazon
19 2:36 Amazon
20 3:22 Amazon
21 3:01
22 3:05 Amazon
23 2:38 Amazon
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