The Brooklyn Academy of Music will mark the centenary of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) with a month-long tribute to his work, including a film festival, a star-studded gala and a six-performance run of the rarely staged Weill opera, The Eternal Road ("Der Weg der Verheissung").
Weill, born in Germany, is best known for the dark, social musicals he created with playwright and director Bertolt Brecht, including Threepenny Opera (1928) and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1929). Weill settled in the U.S. in 1935 after fleeing Nazi Germany. For Broadway, he composed such musicals as Knickerbocker Holiday (1938) and One Touch of Venus (1943).
Weill's The Eternal Road will be performed at the BAM Opera House on Feb. 28, 29 & March 1, 3, 4 & 5. Weill wrote the opera with Franz Werfel and director Max Reinhardt in 1934. The work is an epic retelling of the Jews' flight from persecution, as related in the Old Testament, and reflected Weill's recent departure from Germany. An English-language version bowed at the Manhattan Opera House on Jan. 7, 1937 and played 153 performances. It has rarely been staged since, largely because of the huge cast requirements.
The BAM staging, directed by Michael Heinicke and conducted by John Mauceri, will feature an international cast. The hundreds-strong chorus will be the largest ever assembled on the BAM Opera House stage.
The Weill celebration will commence with a Feb. 10 gala celebration at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. Jerry Orbach will play host to a eclectic guest list including Nanette Fabray, Jerry Hadley, Mark Linn Baker, Ann Magnuson, Billy Dee Williams and Samuel E. Wright. Also attending will be Dick van Patten, who was in the original American cast of The Eternal Road. The month-long festival will also feature a film series of movies in which Weill music was featured, as well as a recent Weill documentary. The program will take place at BAM Rose Cinemas. The schedule runs as follows:
Feb. 17: "September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill," directed by Larry Weinstein (1995)
Feb. 18: "Where Do We Go From Here?," directed by Gregory Ratoff (1945)
Feb. 19: "The Threepenny Opera," directed by G.W. Pabst (1931)
Feb. 20: "You and Me," directed by Fritz Lang (1938)
For information on any of these programs, call (718) 636-4182.
-- By Robert Simonson