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Recommended Threepenny Opera Recording?

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threetwoone
Featured Actor
joined:7/30/09
I just got back from Berlin a few weeks back where I saw a production of Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) at the Bertolt Brecht founded Berliner Ensemble. Completely fell in love with the show and the specific production but of course there was no recording to buy.

Can anyone recommend a good recording of the show, either in German or in English? It's a shame the revival a few years back wasn't recorded Everything I come across on iTunes to buy just isn't doing it for me, so if anyone is partial to a specific recording, let me know!

Pic from the totally awesome bound to be off-Bway-bound musical Ride the Cyclone
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I'm not sure there is a great English-language recording. I have the Off-OBC recording with Bea Arthur which has its moments. Then there's a soundtrack with people like Sammy Davis Jr. on it--but I've never heard it.

Same problem with MAHAGONNY: I gave up and used German recordings when I was teaching. (But since they are in German, I can't really recommend one over another.)
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Reginald Tresilian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/12/08
I've always loved this recoding, possibly because it was the first one I heard, but even so, the cast is extraordinary.


1976 Public Theater revival
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I have to agree with Reg. That recording with Raul Julia and Ellen Greene is my favorite. Greene's "Pirate Jenny" is fantastic. I have heard it said that some of the lyrics are clunky- maybe so, but I don't find it distracting or out of the spirit of the intention of the text.

The OOBC is also good, though not the most aurally pleasant and has clearly been made more censor-friendly.

The Donmar revival is marred by some terrible, unfaithful lyrics and distracting dialect work- and an overall sense of too much polish. Though Tara Hugo's rendition of The Moritat (annoyingly called "The Flick-Knife Song" and made an act closer in this version) is great

Updated On: 8/28/13 at 06:46 PM
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
The Berlin RIAS under Mauceri, with Lemper, Dernesch, etc. is my favorite. The truest to the score and text, I think. And really entertaining. It has Lucy's Aria, something you almost never hear.
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egnarotsew
Stand-by
joined:5/17/11
By far my favorite is the 1976 recording.

Updated On: 8/28/13 at 06:56 PM
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I've never even SEEN the 1976 recording, although the poster was everywhere when I lived in NYC.

Good to know it's out there.
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darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
The BBC Radio Version is complete, if you can find a rare commercial copy. It includes Lucy's Aria and features Zubin Varla as Peachum.

If you're looking for a fun, interesting and lively recording that isn't one hundred per cent faithful, check out the "Mack The Knife" movie soundtrack. The cast is unbelievable- Raul Julia, Bill Nighy, Roger Daltrey, Richard Harris and more. But rather than the sparse and aggressive German-American jazz-opera sound, it is orchestrated to sound more like a traditional British musical with a music-hall influence.
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Smaxie
Broadway Legend
joined:9/26/05
Another vote for the '76.
Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
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Reginald Tresilian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/12/08
Kad, I've also heard it said that the clunky lyrics more accurately reflect the German, as opposed to the slicker Blitzstein translation. But I don't speak German, so I've no idea if that holds wasser.
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BroomstickBoy
Broadway Legend
joined:11/21/04
I would recommend the 1976 version if you can get your hands on it.


I love it. I think the orchestrations and cast both provide a fitting rendition of the piece. I heard Lenya hated that production, which is a bummer because Ellen Greene was fantastic as Jenny.

I also enjoy the Donmar version. What I don't like is how they set it in a post-apocalyptic future at the time of "King William's" coronation. Another issue is that while they may fit the original's raunchy and biting intentions, the lyrics aren't completely faithful but they do flow more lyrically than some other clunky versions. I've read both the Manheim-Willett (1976) version (different lyrics on the recording bug the hell out of me though) and the Jeremy Sams (Donmar) versions.


I wish the Frank McGuinness version from Ireland was recorded (haven't read that one, REALLY want to), with Marianne Faithfull playing Jenny. Her version on her "20th Century Blues" album are great.

I'm kind of a Threepenny nerd.

I don't WANT to live in what they call "a certain way." In the first place I'd be no good at it and besides that I don't want to be identified with any one class of people. I want to live every whichway, among all kinds---and know them---and understand them---and love them---THAT's what I want! - Philip Barry (Holiday)
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egnarotsew
Stand-by
joined:5/17/11
My german is not the best but when I first heard the Blitzstein recording I was surprised how different it is to the original text. The Manheim translation is closer to the german.
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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
The '76 version is available on iTunes, Gaveston.
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justoldbill
Broadway Star
joined:10/17/07
The German Sony recording and the Decca Off-Broadway recording have one thing no other recordings have- Lenya.

Well-well-well-what-do-you-think-of-that-I-have-nothing-here-to-pay-my-train-fare-with-only-large-bills-fives-and-sevens....
Updated On: 8/28/13 at 09:51 PM
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
I don't remember "Lucy's Aria" being on the BBC radio broadcast. If it is it's not in it's usual spot. Or I'm missing it.

***Never mind it's there. Is that the only English language recording of the song?
Updated On: 8/29/13 at 12:29 AM
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justoldbill
Broadway Star
joined:10/17/07
When MGM originally recorded the Off-Broadway cast recording, they insisted that many of Blitzstein's more pungent lyrics be tempered for the recording, many DURING the recording session itself. The differences between the recording and the Tams-Witmark score are telling.
Well-well-well-what-do-you-think-of-that-I-have-nothing-here-to-pay-my-train-fare-with-only-large-bills-fives-and-sevens....
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darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
Yes, because the Shawn translation was the only other major production to include the Aria, and it went unrecorded.
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jv92
Broadway Legend
joined:11/4/05
Look, of course the 1954 Off-Broadway recording is censor-friendly, abridged, and maybe not as "authentic" as diehard Brecht/Weill fans would like...but then again it's completely authentic because Lenya's on it!

If you want to start with a recording of THREEPENNY OPERA, I'd go with that one. I'm rather partial to it. Surprised that everyone else isn't.

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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I am partial to Lenya's contributions to it. But the rest of the recording is very mixed, to me.
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
I'm not sure how "authentic" that '54 recording is - Lenya already had an entirely different voice by then than the one Weill wrote for. And I know everyone wants it to be, but "Pirate Jenny" wasn't written to be barked by an alto Jenny, but is a soprano number for Polly. The point of the song is that it's a hard-as-nails number delivered by what appears to be a sweet ingenue.

And that's Brechtian, baby.
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justoldbill
Broadway Star
joined:10/17/07
"I would recommend the 1976 version if you can get your hands on it."
You can.
The 1976 NYSF recording has been released on CD through ArkivMusic-

Release Date: 04/07/2009
Label: Sony Catalog #: 51520
Composer: Kurt Weill
Performer: Glenn Kezer, Ellen Greene, Raul Julia, Elizabeth Wilson, ...
Orchestra/Ensemble: Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1

Release Notes-
If you're looking for Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera in English, this 1976 Joseph Papp revival is well worth considering via Arkivmusic.com's valuable "on demand" reprint program. It boasts an English translation by Ralph Manheim and John Willett that is far truer to Brecht's gritty, uncensored German original than the better known and "cleaner" Marc Blitzstein version, as well as Weill's original orchestrations and keys, played by a lively 14-musician pit band. Likewise, tempos largely reflect Weill's markings, which explains the Overture's unusual deliberation, and the "No They Can't" song's verse and chorus in the same tempo, among other revelations.

The singers' techniques are oriented toward Broadway rather than the opera house, which is appropriate for this work, and everyone delivers the goods, big time. Indeed, I had forgotten just how well Raul Julia sang; his Macheath exudes plenty of charm along with the requisite sleaze. Listeners accustomed to Lotte Lenya's angry, edgy Pirate Jenny will be surprised by Ellen Greene's hypnotic understatement. The choral numbers are cleanly dispatched without sacrificing energy and intensity. A pity that the booklet notes do not credit Stanley Silverman's superb musical direction.





Well-well-well-what-do-you-think-of-that-I-have-nothing-here-to-pay-my-train-fare-with-only-large-bills-fives-and-sevens....
Updated On: 8/29/13 at 12:34 PM
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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Incidentally, I have the '76 recording on vinyl. I got it for $2 at HousingWorks.

One of the biggest, and most consistently-made, mistakes when staging Threepenny is the need to make it sound pretty and to make it sexy.

It is neither.
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Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
I was in a production of the Blitzstein version and found it quite dull. The 1976 version is more biting, but as mentioned before, the lyrics are clunky to the point of distraction. My favorite is the Donmar recording which is a very different approach to the text, but to me, is the most interesting and attractive musically. I especially love the first act finale entitled "Life's a Bitch".

Though Tara Hugo's rendition of The Moritat (annoyingly called "The Flick-Knife Song" and made an act closer in this version) is great

That is my absolute FAVORITE recording of that song. Her delivery is quite chilling. And starting the song a capella and having it slowly build from there only adds to the intensity of the number. I shudder every time I hear it, but in a good way.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I love that, too, Matt. I am just not fond of the lyrics or moving it from its position as the opening number.
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Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
I really don't mind that so much. It is a bit odd not having the song as the opening, but the placement of the song works well for me given that it's been assigned to a different character.

And the orchestrations of that Donmar recording are my favorite as well. At turns eerie and intense.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
I still wish they would have recorded the Roundabout production. How long ago was that? Maybe we're due for another revival soon?

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