A Sensational Discovery of Unknown Kurt Weill Song
Nov. 01, 2017
In a remarkable find, a previously unknown composition by Kurt Weill was recently discovered in a Berlin archive. The three-page manuscript in the composer's hand bears the peculiar title Lied vom weißen Käse ("Song of the White Cheese," lyric by Günther Weisenborn). Weill composed it for his wife, the singer-actress Lotte Lenya, for performance in a political revue produced to benefit unemployed actors of the Berlin Volksbühne in November 1931. Other prominent contributors to this revue included Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, and Friedrich Hollaender. In the 1960s, Lenya made an attempt to find the song, which she remembered under the title "Song of the blind maiden." When her search yielded no results, she lamented the loss of the music: "Nowhere to be found. Probably buried in some basement." According to Foundation President Kim Kowalke, this vintage, politically engaged song dating from the apex of Weill's career in Germany, will soon be published and recorded.
"Although the discovery is small in terms of the song’s length, it is truly sensational," commented musicologist Elmar Juchem, Managing Editor of the Kurt Weill Edition, who was able to identify Weill's manuscript while conducting archival work in Berlin. "Nobody believed that something completely unknown by Weill could still surface, let alone from his Berlin heyday." The song, sung by the character of a blind girl, tells of an evangelical preacher's unsuccessful attempt to heal her with "white cheese."
Read the New York Times feature—Hear A Newly Found Kurt Weill Song that Surprised Experts—to learn more about the discovery and to hear a performance sung by Ute Gfrerer.
In further Weill news, a highly anticipated new production of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny opens this month at Opernhaus Zürich, starring Karita Mattilla as Begbick, Annette Dasch as Jenny in their role debuts, and Christopher Ventris as Jimmy. Brecht specialist Sebastian Baumgarten directs and Fabio Luisi leads the orchestra for eight performances November 5-24. This production joins a few other ongoing productions already running in Germany, including at Theater und Philharmonie Thüringen and Nationaltheater Mannheim, which both have performances this month.
Also this month, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performs The Seven Deadly Sins in concert (November 3 and 4) as part of its “Angels & Demons Festival.” GöteborgsOperan’s run of Die Sieben Todsünden, conducted by Antony Hermus, continues with eight performances throughout November and into early December. To round out the month, the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Poland presents Kleine Dreigroschenmusik on November 24 and 25, conducted by Alexander Shelley.
For the complete list of Kurt Weill performances coming up this month, visit kwf.org.
Aufsteig und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1927/29)
opera in three acts
text (Ger) by Bertolt Brecht
English translation by Jeremy Sams
S, Mz, 3T, 2Bar, B; chorus and orchestra
2(2pic)1.1.ssax.asax.tsax.2(cbsn)-18.104.22.168-perc.timp-pno.harm ad lib.banjo.bass gtr.bandoneon-str
Stage orchestra: 2(2pic).2.3sax(ssax, asax, tsax).2-22.214.171.124-perc-pno.zither or xyl.banjo.bandoneon-3 vn
Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins) (1933)
ballet chanté in nine scenes
lyrics (Ger) by Bertolt Brecht
for soprano, 2 tenors, baritone, bass, dancer and corps de ballet
Kleine Dreigroschenmusik (Little Threepenny Music) (1929)
suite from "Die Dreigroschenoper" for wind orchestra