Threepennies and a Touch of Venus: The World of Kurt Weill
Only one piece of moving-image footage exists of Kurt Weill: a rather innocuous chat-show appearance from 1949, which I tracked down in the cavernous realms of the NBC Collection at the Library of Congress. My aim here was to produce a multi-part retrospective inspired by Weill's profound legacy as a songwriter, whether in collaboration with lyricist Bertolt Brecht in Weimar Germany, on his own as a refugee in America, or as interpreted, mostly posthumously, by a wide array of variety-show performers (e.g. Bobby Darin). This series drew heavily from archives of European television—ZDF, Granada, ARTE—while also featuring a live NBC Opera production of "Down in the Valley" (from 1950) and a 1958 documentary about the influential Theater de Lys revival of Weill's Threepenny Opera with Lotte Lenya (the forerunner, essentially, of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, also with Lenya) . Another rare element would be the proto-music videos directed by Ken Russell of Lenya performing songs from her late husband's catalog. I pushed mightily to produce, in conjunction with the Kurt Weill Foundation, a gallery component to this series but there simply wasn't the budget; a year or so later, the Center for Performing Arts at the New York Public Library pulled together a magnificent exhibition, for which I served as consultant.