Weill: Die Dreigroschenoper

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Weill
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Die Dreigroschenoper
PERFORMER: René Kollo, Mario Adorf, Helga Dernesch, Ute Lemper, Milva; RIAS Chamber Choir, RIAS Berlin Sinfonietta/John Mauceri
CATALOGUE NO: 430 075-2 Reissue (1990)
Given that the Weill anniversary celebrations are in full swing, it’s hardly surprising that Decca should have decided to repackage its 1990 recording of The Threepenny Opera. The performance has many commendable points, not least Ute Lemper’s alluring interpretations of ‘Seeräuberjenny’, ‘Barbara Song’ and ‘Pollys Lied’. René Kollo is equally impressive, managing to find considerable poignancy in the third act where Macheath begs forgiveness as he anxiously awaits his fate in a London gaol. Of the supporting roles, Helga Dernesch is outstanding as Frau Peachum, delivering a peerless account of the ‘Ballade von der sexuellen Hürigkeit’, and Milva is a full-blooded and entirely convincing Jenny. Decca’s production ensures that the transition from speech to song is handled as effectively and naturally as is possible outside the live theatre, and the recording retains admirable clarity and immediacy.

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So far, so good. The main drawback, however, remains the conducting of John Mauceri. All too often, the instrumental accompaniment, though accurate enough, lacks real sparkle. This is evident from the Overture, which Mauceri takes at a rather sedate tempo with unduly heavy articulation. Comparison with the recent Ensemble Modern performance under HK Gruber on RCA suggests that Gruber has a much more dynamic view of the score, and he’s also more alive to the theatrical dimensions of the three extended finales. Admittedly, the Gruber recording doesn’t boast such charismatic soloists, and Nina Hagen as an asthmatic Frau Peachum is a bit over the top for my liking. But overall the RCA version is preferable, and has the added benefit of greater authenticity, since the performance is based on a newly prepared text which is to be published as the first volume in the eagerly awaited Kurt Weill complete edition. Erik Levi