(6 March 2000)
Foundation for Music and European American Music Corporation are pleased to announce the publication of the new critical edition of Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), the acclaimed 1928 adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Elisabeth Hauptmann. This is the first edited volume of the collected edition series, the Kurt Weill Edition (KWE). The volume is co-edited by Stephen Hinton, one of the pre-eminent Weill scholars active in the world today, and Edward Harsh, the Managing Editor of the KWE project.
Ever since its first production took Berlin by storm, Die Dreigroschenoper has been widely seen as one of the most important music-theatrical works of the twentieth century as well as an icon of Weimar culture. Still, through seventy-two years and literally thousands of productions, the work had never been available in an authoritative edition of both text and music in a single volume. The new edition reconciles the many confusions of detail in the three key sources that emerged from that famed original 1928 production: Weill’s manuscript, the published libretto, and the published piano-vocal score. But the editors went far beyond those three items to consult several dozen other documents, from the original, hand-written instrumental parts to Weill’s correspondence with his publisher Universal Edition, to contemporaneous press reviews and recordings.
The result is a corrected, self-consistent version true to the historical state of the work that first so electrified its audiences. The edition presents not just the musical text but the complete dialogue and stage instructions in their proper sequence. Included are many features never before published. For instance, the original production included six pieces of instrumental stage music based upon a few of the work’s most popular songs. The editors were able to reconstruct five of these from the instrumental parts and have included them in a special appendix. Another appendix offers additional strophes that could be used by performers as alternatives or supplements to four of the songs in the main text.
The new edition was used for the first time on the recently-released BMG recording by the Ensemble Modern and HK Gruber, a recording that has earned critical raves. Most of the same forces will perform the work live in concert on 6 March at the Konzerthaus Berlin.
Die Dreigroschenoper is the first edited volume of the KWE to be published. A facsimile edition of Weill’s Dreigroschenoper manuscript appeared in 1996. The next two volumes in the series, The Firebrand of Florence and Weill’s Chamber Music, are to appear in late 2000 or early 2001.