In 1927, Charles Lindbergh electrified the world when he proved transoceanic flight was possible by piloting the Spirit of St. Louis from the U.S. to Europe. Of the millions who took note, two were among the most important theater artists of the day in Germany (or anywhere else, for that matter), Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Two years later, they began work on a cantata honoring Lindbergh’s epoch-making achievement. Music was also contributed by Paul Hindemith, and the original work was first performed in Baden-Baden in July 1929. But by then Weill had already decided to prepare his own setting of Brecht’s complete text, so he composed entirely new music for the portions Hindemith had written, and a new work was born.
Der Lindberghflug/Der Ozeanflug broke ground on at least two important fronts. Rather than recounting a mythological story or an event from ancient history, it took an up-to-the-minute, compelling story that had already changed the future and retold it by imagining Lindbergh himself in the cockpit battling the elements and his own equipment. Second, the work was composed to be broadcast over the fledgling medium of radio and marked one of the earliest efforts of a composer and playwright to use radio for their own ends.
To mark the ninetieth anniversary of Lindbergh’s flight, the St. Louis Symphony will open its season with a performance of the work, featuring tenor Clark Sturdevant singing Lindbergh, Jeffrey Heyl as baritone soloist, and radio host Charlie Brennan (The Charlie Brennan Show on KMOX) as the Narrator. Der Lindberghflug/Der Ozeanflug will be performed in English. Naturally, the radio cantata can be heard over the radio during the live broadcast of Saturday night’s program on KWMU (90.7 FM). Debussy’s La Mer and Dialogue de l’ombre double by Pierre Boulez are also on the program. On 7 September, Chorus Director Amy Kaiser will give a presentation on Der Lindberghflug/Der Ozeanflug at the Missouri History Museum.
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