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Score for ‘The Eternal Road’


Source: New York Times, December 27, 1936

One of the interesting features of Max Reinhardt’s production “The Eternal Road,” the Franz Werfel play which will have its world première at the Manhattan Opera House, Jan. 4, is the musical setting by Kurt Weill, the German composer. Mr. Weill, since his arrival in this country, also has composed the music for Paul Green’s play, “Johnny Johnson.”

“The Eternal Road” was conceived from the start as a musical play, according to Mr. Weill in a recent interview. He said that Reinhardt, Werfel and he met to discuss its creation in 1934, and from that time on worked together to fashion a play which would best present the simple, human, universal events of the Old Testament.

“Our common task,” said Mr. Weill, “was to bind speech and music into a perfect fusion. I sought to make the musical score an integral part of the action, extending the movement of a word and its operation so that the values of speech found their complement in the values of the music.

“Setting to work, in the Fall of 1934, I proceeded to put down all the Hebraic melodies I had learned from childhood on. I had an abundance of material. For my father, who is a cantor and composer, had set great store upon my learning this heritage. With about 200 songs, which I had written in several days’ memory seeking, I began work at the Bibliothèque Nationale to trace their sources as far as possible.

“Many I discovered had been written in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some borrowed from the most surprising sources–from opera, ‘hit-songs’ of the time, street tunes, concert music, symphonies. Those I dismissed, retaining only the traditional music. With that as my guide, I attempted to create music that would communicate naturally and inevitably the stories of the Old Testament.”

The music is always integral with the action, Mr. Weill said. The singing is not of the opera type. The actor, whenever he sings, sings with his natural voice, the voice he would use to give speech its highest intensity.

“In general I have found the actors in ‘The Eternal Road,’ as well as the Group Theatre in ‘Johnny Johnson,’ are astonishingly musical,” continued Mr. Weill. “One can impose greater musical difficulties upon them than one would imagine. We have tried to achieve the perfect balance between the acting and the singing.”

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