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The Threepenny Opera (1954 New York Cast) (Blitzstein Adaptation) Extra tracks, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, Cast Recording

4.7 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Extra tracks, Original recording reissued, August 29, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Celebrate the Kurt Weill centenary with the return of the acclaimed original American cast recording of The Threepenny Opera starring Lotte Lenya! And don't miss the bonus track-an unreleased recording of Lenya singing Mack the Knife accompanied by Marc Blitzstein on piano!
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 29, 2000)
  • Original Release Date: 1954
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Extra tracks, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, Cast Recording
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B00004X09T
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,286 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
THE THREEPENNY OPERA is indeed Weill and Brecht's masterpiece. The darkly humorous, anarchic and gritty musical has influenced many works throughout the ensuing decades (a recent example being URINETOWN). The now-legendary 1954 off-Broadway revival at the Theatre de Lys is still agruably the greatest production of THREEPENNY, which featured new lyrics translated by Marc Blitzstein (JUNO).
Decca Broadway's reissue of the cast album is average, though. Several dropouts and surface hiss are slightly off-putting to the ear.
Lotte Lenya plays the role of the streetwalker Jenny Diver, and her rendition of "Pirate Jenny" is one of the two major highlights from the set. The other highlight is Bea Arthur's portrayal of Lucy Brown; her reading of "Barbara Song" is full of grit and she belts it in grand style.
Jo Sullivan (who would later marry Frank Loesser) gives a sparkling performance as Polly Peachum, joining Bea Arthur for the caustic "Jealousy Duet". Scott Merrill adds his silvery voice to the menacing "Mack the Knife". The cast also features Charlotte Rae and Martin Wolfson.
Also included is a rare recording of Lotte Lenya singing "Mack the Knife", accompanied by Marc Blitzstein at the piano.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent recording, marred only by the fact that the record company forced Blitzstein to censor a number of the lyrics, including some of the best and brightest ones. If you've seen a stage production of this play, you may be disappointed by the toning-down of the lyrics on this.
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By A Customer on August 29, 2000
Format: Audio CD
At last, the groundbreaking 1954 off-broadway cast recording is available. Bea Arthur and Lotte Lenya give stand-out performances. All-in-all a superb rendition of this stunning score with a very accessible translation by Marc Blitztein. Everyone has their favorite but, for me, this version gives a much more "raw" and "authentic" interpretation, on par with (if not better than) the Lincoln Center production (with Raul Julia as Mack -- which one hopes will also be on CD soon) and certainly more engaging than the Donmar Warehouse version. If you haven't heard this one yet, give it a try.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've been looking for this CD for years (I played my LP to groovy death). I'm overjoyed. It's conventional wisdom these days to knock the Blitzstein translation of Dreigroschenoper as tamer than the Brecht original. So what we get instead are closer to Brecht's literal meaning and a long way from his wit. Blitzstein is the only translator so far to actually produce decent lyrics in English. His translation is freer, in both senses of the word, though it's still pretty close to Brecht. Furthermore, it actually gets the blood racing. Add to this a terrific performance, headed by Weill's widow, keeper of the flame, and one of the greatest actress of the 20th century, Lotte Lenya and including Jo Sullivan, Bea Arthur, John Astin, a host of others, and a crisp, brash chamber ensemble, all wonderfully seedy, and you have the finest English recording of this visionary score.
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Format: Audio CD
What a find! To hear the original 1954 cast of this show is such a treat. To hear actresses like Charlotte Rae and Bea Arthur, now best known for mediocre 1970s and 80s sitcoms, performing in their prime- well, that alone is worth the price of the album.
The feel of this production is, I suspect, very close to the plays Brech and Weill were writing back in Germany in the Weimar days- certainly more so than attempts to recreate it in shows like "Cabaret". And the sound of the remastered recording is absolutely stunning- close your eyes and you're sitting there in the front row of a tiny off-broadway theater, listening to the show unfold before you.
And the music- well, these are songs that are still being recorded and interpereted by artists today. Sting's version of Mack the Knife. Stan Ridgeway's "Army Song".
What else can I say? Buy it.
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Format: Audio CD
I happen to think this is a grand performance and the Blitzstein lyrics right on target, but forget all that for a moment and consider this:

This Theater de Lys program captivated a young and very hip New York City audience for three significant years---from 1954 to '57. There are two basic elements here that I find terribly important.

First, the essentially hostile attitude of the performers toward their public. When I saw it I recall the musicians coming out and actually thumbing their noses at the audience. Hey Mick Jagger, were you there by any chance? I assumed this was part of the atmosphere of the first production in Berlin back in the pre-Nazi Weimar days. But why was that relevant to New Yorkers in the "silent generation" 1950s?

Secondly, there is the basic concept around which the entire work is constructed---The poor, the hopeless, the great unwashed, taking to the streets in all their wretchedness to confront and seek to embarass and humiliate the establishment (read U.S. federal government instead of British Royalty). And of course the goal is to make it coincide with an important establishment politicaal event: Coronation Day.

Does anyone still remember the opening of the New York World's Fair in the mid-sixties? THe reverend Al Sharpton's threats of violence in the streets meant almost no one turned out to see or hear Lyndon Johnson's appearance at the World's Fair site.

Given the time frame, this version of the Threepenny Opera was more than prescient. It helpled create the methodology for the anti-war and pro-civil rights demos that followed just a few years later. Quite an achievement for an off broadway version of a 30 year old German musical comedy!
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The Threepenny Opera (1954 New York Cast) (Blitzstein Adaptation)
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