Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

A good evening

So, I got in from going to HERE I'LL STAY at the Rosemary Branch, my very nearest pub theatre. Peter Scott-Presland is one of my very oldest friends - we met in Oxford GLF in 1971 which is suprisingly late given that we were contemporaries in the same faculty from 1968 onwards, and I went with a crowd of people -Keith, Simon, Nicola, Elizabeth, Julian, Mark - that I know through him and several of whom were at my party last week, or at Abi's funeral, or both. One of the singers in the show turned out to be someone I've known by sight - and she me - from Broadway Market; we both had coffee in La Vie En Rose only the other day; so maybe that's another new friend.

There are so many good versions of Kurt Weill that it is almost too invidious to select one, especially after you've been to a show with a lot of good songs that are not as well known. We tend to think we know the American songs, and actually we know a fragment of what he wrote - there were things here that I had never heard before like some amazing songs from the collaboration with Alan Lerner Love Life and a wonderful song from the unfinished Huckleberry Finn.

If you don't know Weill, you should check out all the good versions on YouTube though those tend to be biased to the early German stuff and you can find everyone from his wife Lotte Lenya to Amanda Palmer singing things like Pirate Jenny, the Bilbao Song, Surabaya Johnny and so on.

Here's one of the best known American songs given a rather strange and wonderful cover version from someone you might not expect to be keen:

and here is a review I did of the Weill/Lenya letters which refers elliptically to the problems anyone performing this music in the context of their lives has with the estate. God sometimes you want copyright to be over...

The letters of Weill and Lenya, on the other hand, make one want to rush out and listen to all sorts of pieces by Weill that one has not yet heard, and then wander down the street singing the best bits louchely and off-key. The generous response to other people's work that both of them shared - whenever they were separated, they kept recommending movies ( Dumbo, 42nd Street ) to each other - is part of this; part of it too is that both composer and singer wandered Weimar Germany, jet-set Europe and the nightclubs of Hollywood and Broadway with that sharp eye and tone about other people which comes of having precious few illusions about oneself or one's correspondent.

These are essential letters because they share that combination of cynicism and sentimentality which characterises Weill's music and Lenya's preformances of it. It has, however, to be added that it is regrettable that the editors chose not to explain, for example, the references to Lenya's naked departure from a hotel window, nor her prickly relationship with the dancer Tilly Losch. If, as seems likely from their failure to mention it even in passing, the editors reject Donald Spoto's assumption in his biography that Lenya and Losch did more than co-star in The Seven Deadly Sins, they had, perhaps, a duty to explain why Weill believes it necessary to give Lenya regular updates on Losch's feelings about her.

Part of the charm of this book rests in something that the editors seem hardly equipped to deal with - the obsession of husband and wife with each other, an obsession hardly touched by their mutual infidelities. If Weill's music has the quality of proverb rather than of cliche, it is perhaps due to the fact that, partly because of his impressive collaborators and partly because of his love for Lenya, he for days at a time never thought of just himself.

And, because I love it so much, here is my dear old friend Adele doing her and Dilly Keane and whoever else was in Fascinating Aida at the time doing a wonderful Weill parody:

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