The weightiest possible lowbrow opera for highbrows and the most full-blooded highbrow musical for lowbrows (musicologist Hans Keller). A deliberately ambiguous work that can be seen as both an 18th century English ballad opera yet at the same time as a piece of twentieth century musical theatre. Kurt Weill wrote it in the late twenties as a socialist critique on a capitalist world, mainly because of the treatment of the poor in London.
In the five years before the Nazis came to power in Germany 1933, the play enjoyed considerable success. By then, it had been translated into 18 languages, and performed about 10.000 times in Europe. The principal performer Lotte Lenya, also on this recording, performed the piece both before and after the war.
In 1945 it was the first theatre performance in destroyed and defeated Berlin. Writer and critic Wolf Von Eckardt recollects that the actors were just released from the concentration camps, and the smell of the dead was still coming from under the debris that formed the stage. The performed the play in real rags.
The best known song is the second of the Spotify list: Die Moritat von Mackie Messer. It has been covered by many others as Mack the Knife. Recordings of Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin have been entered into the Library of Congress in 2015.
My recording is quite old: it is made in 1958, and that is noticeable. Yet somehow this has become the way it should be in my book. This work should be harsh and not really beautiful. It is in its harshness that this socialist work find its strength, in my opinion.