Thursday, May 3, 2012

Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral

Thursday night I went to Berliner Ensemble to see Brecht/Weill's Dreigroschenoper (1928), the Threepenny Opera. I love love love this play. Or musical, if you can call it that. It's musical. I saw it in English at St. Olaf, also a good production, and I saw this show in Berlin three years ago. It was the best play I've ever seen. I came out of there just in disbelief that it was over, and I wanted to go right back in and see it all again. :) This time I was not so head-over-heels, but I still loved it.

It's a combination of Brecht's socialist text and Kurt Weill's brilliant music. And the director Robert Wilson at Berliner Ensemble has the actors in minimalist clothing, almost pantomime-like actions and exaggerated gestures. It's just so much fun to watch. Every minute. Here is the wikipedia page if you want to read what the play is about. Briefly: Because the London gangster Mackie Messer has seduced the daughter of the "king of beggars," Peachum, he sends sets the police after him. Mackie and Polly have a secret improvised wedding, to which the chief of police is invited (they were in the war together). Peachum threatens to send all his beggars out on the street during the upcoming coronation, and the police have to cave in and arrest Mac. But, ironically, at the last minute, Brecht has a "messenger of the king" appear to save the gangster. Everything has been turned upside down: misery has become a commodity (with the beggars), the robbers are the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie are robbers.

There are some really great lines in the play. Most famously, "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral." (roughly: food comes before morality). Also, timely with all the Occupy movements, "Was ist ein Dietrich gegen eine Aktie? Was ist ein Einbruch in eine Bank gegen die Gründung einer Bank? Was ist die Ermordung eines Mannes gegen die Anstellung eines Mannes?" [What is a pickpocket compared to stocks? What is a burglary of a bank compared to the founding of a bank? What is the murder of a man compared to the employment of a man?]

It starts off with the most famous song, "Mackie Messer," or "Mack the Knife", which also became famous in the US in multiple versions (see videos below). In Germany, almost all of the songs were hits on their own, and have been covered by all the famous singers. Hildegard Knef has a version of "Seeräuber Jenny," a poor hotel servant girl's revenge fantasy where she comes back to the town with a ship and burns it to the ground. The song is so so beautiful. And many are just really funny, with ironic or kitschy singing.

Here are some of the more famous versions of the song, "Mack the Knife"

1. Louis Armstrong

2. Ella Fitzgerald
 3. Bobby Darin (1958)

4. Frank Sinatra

and a couple of the songs in German...

Lotte Lenya, "Seeräuber Jenny" (1931 Pabst Film)

another good one, "Die Unsicherheit menschlicher Verhältnisse"

1 comment:

  1. Tante MargueriteMay 5, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Die Video sind prima Bewirtung!

    ReplyDelete