Kurt Weill

Surabaya-Johnny, song for voice & piano (from "Happy End")

    Description by James Leonard

    After the enormous success of Die Dreigroschenoper in 1928, composer Kurt Weill and writer Bertolt Brecht collaborated in 1929 on another gimlet-eyed depiction of the wonders of human nature in the ironically named three-act comedy Happy End. A variation of Shaw's Major Barbara and a precursor of Damon Runyon's Guys and Dolls, Happy End weds Chicago gangsters with Salvation Army workers, allowing Brecht to indulge in his "capitalism is gangsterism misspelled" Marxist rhetoric. In the event, Happy End was insufficiently vile for Brecht who all but insured the failure of the work by having his wife sabotage the premiere with standard-issue Marxist oxymorons from the stage. Despite this, Happy End contains some of Kurt Weill's most repulsively attractive songs in his best tough-guy sentimental vein already familiar from Die Dreigroschenoper. Perhaps the best-known song form Happy End is Surabaya-Johnny, a sort of Dido's Lament for the jazz age. Sung by an innocent seduced and deflowered by an itinerant intercontinental Mack the Knife, the song begins with the same melodic motif that began Die Moritat von Mackie Messer from Die Dreigroschenoper, but it builds here into a highly dramatic, deeply felt, and wholly ironic climax before collapsing into an apthetic and bathetic ballade in its chorus. A hideously beautiful and wonderfully disgusting song that was a favorite of Marlene Dietrich, Surabaya-Johnny is still revolting after all these years.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 MV Cremona MVC 002006
    2017 Vinyl Ermitage VNL 1303
    2016 Symphonia ERM 1036
    2014 ZYX Classics / ZYX Music CLA 101842
    2014 Romeo Records RR 7302
    2014 Gramola 99006
    2014 Challenge Classics CC 72657
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791044
    2012 Decca 4764832
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967901
    2011 Capriccio Records C 5061
    2009 Original Cast OC 6237
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969718
    2009 Rca Red Seal 729343
    2008 Winter & Winter 9101382
    2008 Sony BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution 88697408042
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777077
    2008 Wergo 6709
    2006 Universal Distribution 5866442
    2003 La Dual Band / Original Cast 5780
    2003 Preiser Records 90531
    2002 LML Music 301
    2002 Chandos CHAN 9924
    1999 Edition Al Segno 2010
    1999 BMG / BMG International 6402
    1999 Aura Records 146
    1998 London / PolyGram 460594
    1998 Decca 4589312
    1997 Sony Classical 63046
    1996 Accord 205522
    1996 Laurel Records 855
    1995 Vox 5144
    1994 Capriccio Records 10347
    1993 Decca
    1993 London/Decca / Decca / PolyGram 436 417-2DH
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 42658
    Pearl 9617
    Golden Stars 5410
    RCA 61797
    RCA 61834
    Milan / RCA 35601