This summer’s Salzburg Festival will be the site of a musical and theatrical experiment. The publishers and rights holders of The Threepenny Opera have agreed to permit a new orchestration by Tony, Grammy, and Olivier Award-winner Martin Lowe (Once, Jedermann). Dialogue and lyrics will remain the same. To avoid confusion, the work will be presented under a new title, “Mack the Knife—A Salzburg Threepenny Opera.” The rescored version has been authorized for performance only in Salzburg; Weill’s original orchestrations remain available for licensing.
Festival director Sven-Eric Bechtolf remarked, “By adapting the immortal melodies of this wonderful composer afresh, we will attempt to transport the sonic environment of his remarkable score from the dance band idioms of the Twenties of the last century to the sonorities of the second decade of our own.” Bechtolf will co-direct the fully staged production with set designer Julian Crouch; eight performances are scheduled at the Felsenreitschule between 11 and 27 August. In order to convey the full range of Weill’s epoch-making achievement, the Festival will also host a concert performance of the original version of the score by the Ensemble Modern, led by today’s foremost Weill conductor, composer and chansonnier HK Gruber. Opera star Angela Denoke’s recital, “Life in the Cities: Kurt Weill and His Time,” rounds out the Weill festivities on 22 August.
In addition to the performances, the Festival will also host a three-part symposium titled “Bertolt Brecht und die Politik, die Literatur und die Musik.” The first two sessions (27 July and 5 August) center on Brecht, while the third and final session (11 August) focus on Weill and Brecht, with papers given by Stephen Hinton, Nils Grosch, HK Gruber, and others.
Foundation President Kim H. Kowalke has called Lowe’s work an “experiment.” Lowe has taken a free hand and has proceeded independently, with no input from the rights holders. Devotees of Die Dreigroschenoper are surely curious, if not eager, to hear his handiwork.
Mackie Messer: Eine Salzburger Dreigroschenoper
Premiere: 11 August 2015, Felsenreitschule
Other performances: 13, 14, 16, 20, 23, 25, 27 August, Felsenreitschule
Directors: Julian Crouch, Sven-Eric Bechtolf
Conductor: Holger Kolodziej
Principal cast members: Michael Rotschopf (Macheath), Graham F. Valentine (Peachum), Sonja Beisswenger (Polly), Pascal von Wroblewsky (Mrs. Peachum), Sona MacDonald (Jenny)
Die Dreigroschenoper (concert performance)
Date: 15 August 2015, Felsenreitschule
Conductor: HK Gruber
Orchestra: Ensemble Modern
Principal cast members: Max Raabe (Macheath), HK Gruber (Peachum), Ute Gfrerer (Polly), Hanna Schwarz (Mrs. Peachum), Sona MacDonald (Jenny)
Liederabend Angela Denoke
“Stadtbewöhner: Kurt Weill und seine Zeit”
Date: 22 August 2015, Landestheater
Accompanists: Tal Balshai, Norbert Nagel, Tim Park
Songs by Kurt Weill, Friedrich Holländer, Werner Heymann, Hanns Eisler, Walter Kollo, Mischa Spoliansky; readings of texts by Bertolt Brecht
Essay by Kim H. Kowalke for Salzburg program book (English version)
General program for theater performances (PDF)
Der Spiegel (Anke Dürr)
Süddeutsche Zeitung (Egbert Tholl)
Huffington Post (Germany) (Ulrich Fischer)
Südwest Presse (Otto Paul Burkhardt)