June 1999 – May 2001 Celebration Will Include Stage Productions, Concerts, Recordings
The year 2000 marks the 100th anniversary of the composer Kurt Weill’s birth in Dessau (2 March 1900) and fifty years since his death in New York City (3 April 1950). Best known by the general public for songs such as “Mack the Knife,” “September Song,” and “Alabama Song,” Kurt Weill is a figure as central to the American musical theater as he is to the culture of Central Europe between the two World Wars. After early successes with stage works including the masterpiece Die Dreigroschenoper, Kurt Weill fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, settling ultimately in the United States, where his partnerships with Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Ogden Nash, and Langston Hughes led to such memorable Broadway works as Knickerbocker Holiday, Lady in the Dark, One Touch of Venus, and Street Scene. In honor of his centenary, performing arts organizations and artists around the world are planning productions, performances and recordings of Weill’s compositions, radio and television broadcasts, and scholarly symposia.
The centenary’s official opening ceremony takes place on the afternoon of the world premiere of the complete Der Weg der Verheissung in Chemnitz (13 June 1999). The production, with a cast of 200, culminates two years of planning by the co-producers: Oper Chemnitz, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New Israeli Opera, and Opera Krakow. Weill collaborated with Franz Werfel and Max Reinhardt to create a monumental biblical drama combining the story of a Jewish congregation on the eve of a pogrom with dramatized readings from the Torah. The complete work has never been performed, although a shortened version of the work entitled The Eternal Road was presented in New York in 1937. During the centenary period, Der Weg der Verheissung will be seen by audiences in all of the participating producers’ cities, as well as being featured as part of the German Pavilion at EXPO 2000 in Hannover (July 2000).
The Spoleto Festival USA American premiere of Die Bürgschaft on 30 May 1999 served as the North American curtain raiser for Weill’s centenary, presaging many premieres and performances of works not heard in decades. The Firebrand of Florence, an operetta seen heretofore only in its initial 1945 Broadway production,will be performed in concert at the Vienna Konzerthaus with the RSO Wien (May 2000) and in London at the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Weill Festival at the Barbican Centre (14 – 16 January 2000). Another rarely seen Weill operetta, Der Kuhhandel, will be showcased in its American premiere at the Juilliard Opera Theatre (in a new English translation by Jeremy Sams, 11 – 15 April 2000) as well as in Weill’s home town of Dessau (March 2000).
New York City will be the scene of a city-wide festival encompassing Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and many other large and small venues (February – April 2000). In addition to Der Weg der Verheissung at BAM, highlights will include the premiere at the New York Philharmonic of a new concert suite devised from Street Scene and a 12-hour free marathon, Wall-to-Wall Weill, at Symphony Space. The Konzerthaus Berlin is scheduling a major Weill festival (March – April 2000),including the German premiere of the “Street Scenes” concert suite and a concert performance of the rarely heard Der Protagonist. London’s South Bank Centre will present a season-long tribute to Weill, and the annual Kurt-Weill-Fest in Dessau will be expanded to three weeks (February – March 2000).
Centenary audiences will see a host of productions of Die Dreigroschenoper, Street Scene, and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, including a Staatsoper Stuttgart production of Mahagonny touring to the Edinburgh Festival (August 2000) and to the New Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv (October – November 2000). In addition, they can experience numerous performances of Weill’s two symphonies, the concerto for violin and wind instruments, Die sieben Todsünden, and virtually every other piece written by the many-sided Weill. See the Centenary Calendar for a full listing.
New BMG recordings of Der Silbersee and Die Dreigroschenoper will appear in August and October 1999, respectively, among the numerous discs containing Weill compositions to be released. The first edited volume of the Kurt Weill Edition, Die Dreigroschenoper, will be available in December 1999. Books published during the Weill centenary will include How Can You Tell an American? Kurt Weill on Stage from Berlin to Broadway by Foster Hirsch (A. Knopf), Jürgen Schebera’s Kurt Weill (Reinbek: Rowohlt) and Kurt Weill: A Life in Pictures and Documents (Overlook Press: David Farneth, editor). The last book will accompany “Musical Stages: Kurt Weill and His Century,” a multi-media exhibition to be seen at the Berlin Akademie der Künste (March – April 2000) and at the newly renovated New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in early 2001.
Among other centenary accolades, the German government will issue a Weill 100th birthday stamp. Schott Musik International is planning activities including a tribute album of songs by noted contemporary composers, a special Kurt Weill edition of Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, and an internet website and event: “World Weill Day.”
For more information, please contact:
Kurt Weill Foundation for Music
Phone: (212) 505.5240, Fax: (212) 353.9663