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Friday, January 23, 2015

MACK THE KNIFE

My favorite program on TV could well be Classic Arts Showcase (Channel 53 from 6-8AM in Honolulu.)  This morning I awoke to Lotte Lenya from Die Dreigroschenoper, or, Three Penny Opera (TPO, here is the complete 1 hour 57 minute 1931 film).

Of course I know the name and the musical show, but had no idea how she looked and sang, or about the play, which was composed by Kurt Weill, who married, divorced and remarried Lotte Lenya.  He also wrote September Song, from the 1938 Knickerbocker Holiday. here sung by Walter Huston.

The whole atmosphere of TPO is depressing, for it is based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, (full 1 hour 34 minute BBC 1963 performance), and opens with a street musician--Bertolt Brecht, who wrote the lyrics--singing Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (DMVMV, more popularly know these days as Mack the Knife, here by Bobby Darin).  That opening prologue is a ballad on murder, rape and more.  The Darin rendition, which even Frank Sinatra indicated was the definitive version, used a 1933 American re-write (although other sources say 1976):



Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

Here is Lotte Lenya singing DMVMV.  She sort of looks like Carol Burnett, and kind of sings like her, too.  Lenya won a Tony in 1956 for her same role as Jenny in an Off-Broadway version for  The Threepenny Opera, the only time a non-Broadway show won such an award.  The cast included Bea Arthur and John Astin.  Six years later she was nominated for an Academy Award in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961).  If you are fans of Vivien Leigh, a young Warren Beatty and Cleo Laine, this is a nice clip.

So back to Mack the Knife, I close with some odd offerings:

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