Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform

Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform

Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform

Weill's Musical Theater: Stages of Reform


In the first musicological study of Kurt Weill's complete stage works, Stephen Hinton charts the full range of theatrical achievements by one of twentieth-century musical theater's key figures. Hinton shows how Weill's experiments with a range of genres--from one-act operas and plays with music to Broadway musicals and film-opera--became an indispensable part of the reforms he promoted during his brief but intense career. Confronting the divisive notion of "two Weills"--one European, the other American--Hinton adopts a broad and inclusive perspective, establishing criteria that allow aspects of continuity to emerge, particularly in matters of dramaturgy. Tracing his extraordinary journey as a composer, the book shows how Weill's artistic ambitions led to his working with a remarkably heterogeneous collection of authors, such as Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Moss Hart, Alan Jay Lerner, and Maxwell Anderson.


Lately he has been asked to write in the vein of Gilbert and Sullivan, or
of Gershwin, and now of seicento madrigals. and this for a man who was
notable for the curious individuality of his own style, for a man almost
inflexibly remote from any other style but his own

S. L. M. barlow, “IN the THEATRE”

I think of Weill as a composer who was able to put on any clothes—ranging
from Protestant chorale to Jewish melisma to Euro-tango to Schoenbergian
atonality to Richard Rodgers’ popcorn—precisely because he was so con
fident that he had centered his art on the fundamentals of expression: on
legible music-figures. He was not a fake, but a serious composer adept at
wearing any sort of frivolous musical drag.…To learn what is the com
mon property of all music theater, listen to Weill

Daniel albright, “KURT weill as MODERNIST”

How should Kurt Weill be remembered? the fact that posterity has been inclined to recognize him as the composer who didn’t give a damn about posterity is an irony he would have acknowledged, if not entirely appreciated. Nor was he wholly blameless for this state of affairs. “As for myself, I write for today,” he said in a much-cited and often paraphrased statement. “I don’t give a damn about writing for posterity.” It is hard to believe he was not protesting too much. Why else would he have brought up the issue in the first place? Those who really don’t give a damn, frankly do not talk about it. Or perhaps he was not protesting enough. Posterity, after all—which has given a damn about Weill’s statement—has been left to work out what he meant, and has done so in a variety of ways. the irony demands qualification, if not resolution.

The notion of his not having written for posterity contributes to the prevalent image of Weill as a composer without a stable identity, someone who “seemed to change styles more often than countries,” to quote one of his biographers. Part of this image no doubt stems from his lifelong commitment to musical theater . . .

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