The Eternal Road, Kurt Weill’s 1937 theatrical collaboration with Franz Werfel and Max Reinhardt, combines the story of a Jewish congregation on the eve of a pogrom with dramatizations of beloved stories from the Bible. The original, monumental production utilized the talents of Norman Bel Geddes, Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Sam Jaffe, a 13-year old Sidney Lumet, and Lotte Lenya, among many others. Now the work has been chosen to inaugurate the Milken Archive’s new recording series focusing on American Jewish music, in a CD from the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin with Gerard Schwarz conducting, containing 70 minutes of Eternal Road excerpts, about a third of the entire score. Multiple solo roles are filled by James Maddalena, Karl Dent, Ted Christopher, Vale Rideout, Barbara Rearick, and Constance Hauman, and choral support is provided by Berlin’s Ernst Senff Chor.
Press reaction to the recording has been highly favorable. Donald Rosenberg of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported: “A colorful blend of Jewish liturgical sources and the composer’s own vigorous and piquant creativity.” “From choral numbers in Handelian style to actual liturgical music to wry ditties that echo The Threepenny Opera . . . A stirring performance that makes one impatient to hear the entire work,” concluded the Chicago Tribune‘s John von Rhein.
The Eternal Road lay forgotten after its initial New York production, until a revival of interest fueled by Weill’s centenary led to a gala 1999 staged production of the work in its German-language version (Der Weg der Verheißung) at the Chemnitz Opera. The production later toured to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, EXPO 2000 in Hannover, and the New Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv. Several leading orchestras have presented excerpts from The Eternal Road in concert, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra (at the BBC Proms), Bochum Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (at Cincinnati May Festival), and the American Symphony Orchestra. The Plymouth Music Series in Minneapolis presented the entire score in concert under the title The Road of Promise.