Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kurt Weill - Lasting Legacy

Last week, in preparation for the start of The Threepenny Opera, we here at the Signature Theatre Education blog explored the life of composer Kurt Weill. This week, just as the curtain is set to rise again at Signature, we want to share a little bit of the influence, writings, and legacy that Weill has had on the world of music and theatre. What follows are brief snippets of Weill’s writing on music and theatre as well as some side notes of our own as we explore the great composer.

During his time as a composer, Kurt Weill established himself as a new and original voice in German and American musical theater. Weill's formula for success in the theatre was a simple one. “Being a theatrical composer, I have to present my music in a manner which would be accepted by a realistic public.... I will have music for seventy-five percent of my story, but twenty-five percent will be dialogue. Sometimes this dialogue will be underscored by the orchestra as a dramatic moment is about to unfold. At other times, no music will be played at all.”

Kurt believed that in order to preserve realism he could not tell the whole story in music but must weave the spoken word into song for a blending of profound effects both musically and dramatically. Now, this may seem like a small inkling of creative constriction on the part of the composer, however, Weill puts these possible constraints in a different light. “The creative artist seeks independence, he wants to conceive his work freely, unaffected by outer compulsion. On the other hand, he needs some restraining influence to prevent his wandering in abstract spheres. He must know for whom he is creating. Only by considering his objective will he find the necessary spiritual background that prohibits an empty play with forms.”

Wiell's opinions on the creation of art are particularly relevant in today's theatrical world. As the world continues to change and become more interconnected, we see it's dependence on the arts and culture grow. The United States of America is one of the only countries in which theatre forms an active, vital part of cultural life and is fostering the development of the theatrical future. In America there there is a genuine interest in theatre not only in New York but in other cities the nation over. This American curiosity and natural attraction to theatre indicate that "the soil is favorable for development."

What has been developed since Kurt Wiell's passing has become modern musical theatre. The purest and most direct form of poetic theatre, musical theatre lifts the play immediately to a high level of feeling and makes spectators far more disposed to pursue the poetic line. Kurt Wiell wanted the people of the world to pursue the poetic lines of life and notice the beauty and weight of the world around them.

"One glance at New York at night, at an industrial photograph, at a flash of any newsreel, at a page of any newspaper, reveals to us the richness of romantic quality that life today contains...Here is where music's power could be so great." - Kurt Weill

Bretolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera runs from April 22nd - June 1st at Signature Theatre. Call 703 820 9771 for tickets and showtime information.

Clippings and quotes taken from:


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