Beginning this month, CCM will celebrate the iconic work and enduring legacy of composer Kurt Weill with an unprecedented series of events. Opening on Friday, Oct. 19, and running through Tuesday, March 12, CCM’s Kurt Weill Festival will incorporate the renowned theatre composer into a broad range of both public performances and classroom exercises.
Perhaps best known for The Threepenny Opera and its opening ballad, “Mack the Knife,” Weill’s work has been championed by performers as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Nina Simone, The Doors, Judy Collins, Teresa Stratas, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Todd Rundgren, Tom Waits, Lou Reed and Sting.
CCM’s yearlong Kurt Weill Festival will include Mainstage opera and musical theatre productions, cabaret performances, collaborative concerts, master classes and more. Funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, CCM has never before hosted a festival of this magnitude.
“An inter-disciplinary series featuring productions of Street Scene and The Threepenny Opera – two very different stage works from Weill’s wide-ranging output – illustrates CCM’s renowned versatility in diverse genres of musical theatre,” explains Kurt Weill Foundation Director Carolyn Weber. “The schedule of stage productions, concerts and ancillary activities, unprecedented in scope in an academic context, has inspired the Foundation to expand its sponsorship program to cover leading academic institutions in addition to professional performing arts organizations, and we hope the CCM festival will set the stage for other such sponsorships in the future.”
“The Kurt Weill Festival was born out of the kind of collaborations and synchronicities that are a unique part of the CCM experience,” says Robin Guarino, CCM’s J. Ralph Corbett Chair of Opera. “Last spring Aubrey Berg (CCM’s Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theater) approached me about directing The Threepenny Opera as part of the Musical Theatre program’s Mainstage Series. As it happened, the Opera Department had just decided to produce Weill’s Street Scene for the first time in the history of the school. At the same time, Associate Professor of Musicology and resident Weill Scholar bruce mcclung and Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Gibson began discussions about programming a Weill cabaret project as part of a collaboration between CCM’s departments of opera, orchestral studies and jazz studies with bruce mcclung acting as Dramaturg.”
From these beginnings, the festival has grown to become a near-college-wide celebration of Weill’s music, with CCM’s choral, jazz, musical theatre, opera and orchestral programs incorporating the composer’s work into their 2012-13 programs. In turn, this programming has created opportunities for exciting new collaborations with CCM’s electronic media, musicology and theatre design & production departments.
This broad, cross-disciplinary appeal makes perfect sense to mcclung, who characterizes Weill as “a prototypical crossover composer.” A recipient of the Kurt Weill prize in 2007, mcclung explains, “Weill’s music engages with the central aesthetic debates of our time: elitism versus populism, autonomy versus accessibility and modernism versus postmodernism.”
Guest Artist Roster
CCM will welcome a number of renowned guest artists, distinguished scholars and master teachers as part of this yearlong celebration, giving the festival considerable star power. The Kurt Weill Festival’s distinguished guests include:
- Victoria Clark – The Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner will lead master classes on “Interpreting Weill” for CCM Opera and Musical Theatre students from Nov. 9-10.
- Kim Kowalke – Kurt Weill Foundation president will host a pre-show lecture before the opening performance of Street Scene on Nov. 15 and host a lecture on “What Makes Weill Weill” on Nov. 16.
- Ted Sperling – The Tony and Drama Desk award-winning director, conductor, arranger and musician will lead two days of master classes on “The Music of Kurt Weill in Performance” from Jan. 10-11.
- John Arnone – The Tony Award-winner will join CCM as guest scenic designer for the spring Mainstage production of The Threepenny Opera.
- Howard Pollack – The University of Houston Professor of Music and Kurt Weill Foundation grant-recipient will host both a mid-afternoon and a pre-show lecture on The Threepenny Opera on March 1.
Schedule of Events
A pair of cabaret-style programs will bookend CCM’s Kurt Weill Festival. With an October 2012 cabaret produced by CCM’s Department of Opera and a March 2013 cabaret produced by the Department of Musical Theatre, these events stand as a testament to Weill’s enduring legacy in both classical and popular contexts.
Festival highlights also include fully staged productions of two of the composer’s most important works: Street Scene (Nov. 15 – 18) and The Threepenny Opera (Feb. 28 – March 10) along with concert performances of Weill’s Kiddush (Prayer of Sanctification) and the a capella madrigal “Ho, Billy, O!” from the Weill musical Love Life (1948).
Please see individual listings below for additional information on the festival’s public events.
7 & 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19
7 & 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
Speak Low: A Kurt Weill Cabaret
Lydia Brown, music director and pianist
Robin Guarino, stage director
The 2012-13 Kurt Weill Festival officially opens with “Speak Low,” a cabaret-style evening featuring CCM singers performing the music of Kurt Weill. The program will feature selections from Happy End, Lady in the Dark, One Touch of Venus, The Unknown Kurt Weill and more.
Location: Cohen Family Studio Theater
Tickets: $15 adult, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.
8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 *
8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16
8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18
Music by Kurt Weill
Lyrics by Langston Hughes
Book by Elmer Rice
Mark Gibson, conductor
Steven Goldstein, director
Based on Elmer Rice’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Street Scene is a stirring synthesis of European traditional opera and American musical theatre. A simple story of love, greed and death portrays life in a tenement house between one evening and the next, bringing to life a wide range of multi-ethnic characters. Kurt Weill’s Tony Award-winning music is considered by many critics to be his masterpiece. This production is dedicated to the memory of Malcolm Fraser (1939-2012), former J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair in Opera at CCM.
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
Tickets: $30 adult, $19 non-UC students, $17 UC Students, $12 student rush tickets available for Sunday matinee beginning at 1 p.m. on Nov. 18; limit two rush tickets per student ID.
*Note: the Nov. 15 performance of Street Scene will be preceded by a pre-show lecture by Kurt Weill Foundation President Kim Kowalke at 7:15 p.m. in the Baur Room.
2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16
Thinking About Music Lecture: “What Makes Weill Weill” with Kim Kowalke (University of Rochester)
Location: Baur Room
8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28
8 p.m. Friday, March 1 *
2 & 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2
2 p.m. Sunday, March 3
8 p.m. Thursday, March 7
8 p.m. Friday, March 8
2 & 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9
2 p.m. Sunday, March 10
The Threepenny Opera
Music by Kurt Weill
Book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
English Adaptation by Marc Blitzstein
Robin Guarino, director
Roger Grodsky, musical director
Patti James, choreographer
Adapted from an eighteenth-century ballad opera by John Gay, The Threepenny Opera offers a Marxist critique of the capitalist world. Set in an anachronistic Victorian London, The Threepenny Opera is a work of epic theatre, challenging conventional notions of property and theatre. Part satire, part shock effects, part aesthetic innovation, part moral indictment and part sheer theatrical diversion, it asks a still-relevant question: “Who is the bigger criminal: the man who robs a bank or the man who founds one?” Deeply influenced by jazz, its opening lament, “Mack the Knife,” has become a standard recorded by Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé and countless others. Since its opening, The Threepenny Opera has been translated into 18 languages and performed more than 10,000 times. Mature subject matter.
Location: Patricia Corbett Theater
Tickets: $30 adult, $19 non-UC students, $17 UC Students, $12 student rush tickets available for Saturday matinee beginning at 1 p.m. on March 2 and March 9; limit two rush tickets per student ID.
*Note: The March 1 performance of The Threepenny Opera will be preceded by a pre-show lecture by Howard Pollack at 7:15 p.m. in the Baur Room.
2 p.m. Friday, March 1
Thinking About Music Lecture: “Oh the Shark Has Pretty Teeth, Dear: Marc Blitzstein’s historic adaptation of The Threepenny Opera” with Howard Pollack (University of Houston)
Location: Baur Room
3 p.m. Sunday, March 10
CCM Chamber Choir and Brass Choir
Earl Rivers, conductor
The CCM Chamber Choir performs Kurt Weill’s Kiddush (Prayer of Sanctification) for mixed chorus, baritone solo and organ. The concert will also feature Jongen’s Mass and David Hamilton’s The Moon is Silently Singing, featuring Randy Gardner and Peter Landgren, horns.
Location: The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption; 1140 Madison Avenue, Covington, Ky.
7 p.m. Sunday, March 3
7 p.m. Sunday, March 10
Kurt Weill in Cabaret
Compiled and directed by Aubrey Berg
Musical direction by Julie Spangler
Musical staging by Joey Dippel
Sixty years after his death, Kurt Weill’s music continues to be performed both in popular and classical contexts. As part of the Kurt Weill Festival, CCM’s acclaimed Musical Theatre program offers two sets of Weill songs in an intimate setting. The first half of the evening deals with the Berlin period and Weill’s collaboration with Bertolt Brecht; the second with the American years and his Broadway successes.
Location: Cohen Family Studio Theater
Tickets: $15 adult, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE. Tickets to CCM Musical Theatre’s “Kurt Weill in Cabaret” go on sale on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013.
8 p.m., Tuesday, March 12
Chorale and Guest Choir
Brett Scott, conductor
Presenting American choral masterpieces, from classic compositions to newly composed works, including “Ho, Billy, O!,” an Elizabethan-style a cappella madrigal about modern anxiety and neurosis from the 1948 Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner musical Love Life.
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Admission: $12 general admission, $6 non-UC students, UC students free.
Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice.
Please refer to individual event listings for specific pricing information.
Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.
For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
About Kurt Weill
The son of a cantor, Kurt Weill (1900-50) was raised in a religious Jewish home in Dessau, Germany. He took an early interest in music; his first teacher was Albert Bing, conductor at the local opera house. At eighteen, Weill went to Berlin, experiencing its political and artistic ferment firsthand. A few months’ study with Engelbert Humperdinck did not satisfy him, but late in 1920 he began an intensive association with Ferruccio Busoni in the composition seminar at the Akademie der Künste. By the end of 1923, he had had five full-length works performed in Germany. The next few years brought further success: a popular violin concerto and his first opera, The Protagonist (1926, Georg Kaiser). Through Kaiser, Weill met the actress Lotte Lenya in Berlin in 1924, and they married in January 1926. They were divorced from 1933-37, but they remarried and stayed together until his death.
Weill’s early works show the influence of post-romanticism, expressionism, even atonality. Yet the desire to create “freer, lighter, and simpler” music grew on him. The early operas Royal Palace (1927) and The Czar Has his Photograph Taken (1928) show the influence of jazz and popular music. He began working with Bertolt Brecht in the spring of 1927, setting the “Mahagonny” poems. Mahagonny‘s hummable tunes and thoroughgoing popular influence seemed calculated to shock the avant-garde; the charge that he had “sold out” to commercialism and abandoned art followed him thereafter. Later compositions, like The Threepenny Opera and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny elaborated on his popular style. But a much different style animates other works with Brecht, such as He Who Says Yes, an opera for students, and The Lindbergh Flight, a cantata.
The collaboration with Brecht ended around 1930, and Weill’s last two compositions in Germany were written with others: The Pledge (1932, Caspar Neher) and The Silver Lake (1933, Georg Kaiser). Hitler’s ascent in 1933 forced Weill to leave Germany, never to return. He spent two frustrating years in Paris, finding little sympathy for his new compositions: The Seven Deadly Sins (1933, Brecht), A Kingdom for a Cow (1935, Robert Vambery), and the Second Symphony (1934). His work on The Eternal Road (1937, Franz Werfel), a pageant based on the Old Testament, brought him to the U.S. in September 1935.
Weill’s American career was as active as his European career. He had two major successes on Broadway: Lady in the Dark (1941, Moss Hart and Ira Gershwin) and One Touch of Venus (1943, Ogden Nash and S.J. Perelman). His most important works for Broadway, at least in terms of influence, were probably Street Scene (1947, Elmer Rice and Langston Hughes) and Love Life (1948, Alan Jay Lerner). Weill considered Street Scene a “Broadway opera,” and his project of making opera more palatable to Broadway audiences was carried forward by Menotti, Blitzstein and Bernstein. Several experts have pointed to Love Life as the precursor of the “concept musical,” influencing Fosse, Sondheim, and Kander and Ebb. All together, he brought eight shows to Broadway and saw three other stage works produced in the U.S.
Weill’s constant hard work and family history of hypertension caught up with him early in 1950. While his last work, Lost in the Stars (1949, Maxwell Anderson), still ran on Broadway, and shortly after he and Anderson had begun a musical version of Huckleberry Finn, Weill had a heart attack and was hospitalized in New York City, where he died on April 3.
About the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. administers, promotes and perpetuates the legacies of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. It encourages broad dissemination and appreciation of Weill’s music through support of performances, productions, recordings and scholarship; it fosters understanding of Weill’s and Lenya’s lives and work within diverse cultural contexts; and, building upon the legacies of both, it nurtures talent, particularly in the creation, performance, and study of musical theater in its various manifestations and media. Learn more about the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by visiting www.kwf.org.
Funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, N. Y.
CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation
ArtsWave: Community Partner
Macy’s: Mainstage Season Production Sponsor