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The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music
E-News November 2014
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music

Johnny Johnson at UNC Chapel Hill
Photo: David Navalinsky
Johnny Johnson, UNC Chapel Hill
Poster for Johnny Johnson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Johnny Johnson, Kurt Weill Edition
The Kurt Weill Edition Johnny Johnson volume 

Tim CarterProfessor Tim Carter
Photo: Courtesy of UNC

Johnny Johnson Debuts at UNC Chapel Hill

First Performance of Critical Edition

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, the Kenan Theatre Company and Departments of Dramatic Art and Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill present five performances of Johnny Johnson, Kurt Weill and Paul Green’s humorous and poignant critique of the war and its aftermath. The play with music was Weill’s first show on Broadway, produced by the legendary Group Theatre in 1936. The performances at UNC, which run 20-24 November, mark the first staging using new performing materials derived from the critical edition of the work, published in 2012 as part of the Kurt Weill Edition. Evan Feldman conducts; Serena Ebhardt directs.

As part of UNC’s year-long World War I project organized by the Institute for Arts and Humanities, UNC will host a symposium on 22 November. Distinguished Weill and Green scholars, including Kim H. Kowalke, Tim Carter, Naomi Graber, Margaret Bauer, and Alex Albright, will participate. The performances and symposium are funded in part by a sponsorship from the Kurt Weill Foundation.

Johnny Johnson defied Broadway musical comedy conventions of the 1930s with its orchestration for only 11 players, wide range of theatrical and musical styles, and subject matter. The satire centers around an idealistic, pacifist Everyman who enlists in the military and embarks on a series of comic and sobering adventures as he tries to end the war through peaceful means. His efforts eventually land him in an insane asylum, and when he is finally released many years later, the country is mobilizing for the next world war.

A more appropriate location for the debut of the critical edition would be hard to imagine. Paul Green taught at the University for many years, and a theater that bears his name remains a campus landmark. Tim Carter, editor of the Johnny Johnson volume, is currently David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at Chapel Hill. His work on Johnny was honored with the 2013 Claude V. Palisca Award of the American Musicological Society for an outstanding scholarly edition or translation. For his research, Carter drew on a vast array of surviving source materials and delved deep into the archives of the Federal Theatre Project, which presented Johnny Johnson in two separate productions in 1937. The FTP version served as the basis for the critical edition, which presents Johnny Johnson in full score, with the complete spoken text placed between the musical numbers.

“The UNC production presents Johnny Johnson in ways closest to what Kurt Weill and Paul Green intended in terms of content, and as it has not been seen or heard since the Federal Theatre Project productions,” says Carter. “Seeing Johnny Johnson come to life on the stage has been wonderfully rewarding, and it has been hugely enlightening to discover that dramatic and musical elements I sometimes doubted might ‘work’ in production in fact do so, and to powerful effect. So having come to the end of an editorial voyage, I start a new one of exploration, which, of course, is what performance is all about.”


Jessica Lange Sings "September Song" on American Horror Story

In a star turn as Elsa Mars, the owner of a 1950s traveling freak show, Jessica Lange has been wowing viewers of FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show this season with her powerful portrayal and featured musical performances. In last week’s drama, “Bullseye” (Season 4, Episode 6), Lange sang Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song” in an intimate scene between Elsa and her lover, trying it out for him before Elsa's upcoming television appearance. As she finishes the bittersweet song she quips, “A little culture for the TV viewers. God knows they need it.” The Academy Award-winning actress has said she never thought of herself as a singer, but creator Ryan Murphy (Glee) has clearly brought out a hidden talent.

Lange’s recording of “September Song” is now available on iTunes

The full episode may be streamed here.

Lenya Competition Deadline Approaching

Applications Due 5 January

The deadline is fast approaching for the 18th annual Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. Prizes totaling more than $50,000 will be awarded to exceptional young singer/actors, who must perform repertoire ranging from opera/operetta arias to contemporary Broadway musical theater, including works by Kurt Weill. The deadline to apply is 5 January 2015.

The contest is open to singer/actors of all nationalities, ages 19-32. Applicants may compete in the preliminary round by uploading a video (due 2 February), thereby making the first round universally accessible and removing any travel barriers; limited live preliminary auditions will be held in New York City on 24 January. Stipends are available for travel to the semi-finals and finals. See website for details.

Guidelines and Application

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story: Freak Show

Jessica Lange 

2015 Lotte Lenya Competition

"No other vocal contest better targets today's total-package talents."
- Opera News, 2014

Lawrence Foster
Lawrence Foster 
Photo: Marc Ginot

The Threepenny Opera, Moscow Art Theater
Die Dreigroschenoper, Moscow Art Theatre 
Photo: Ekatarina Tsvetkova

Angela Denoke
Angela Denoke 
Photo:Johan Persson 

Upcoming Performance Highlights

Johnny Johnson

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

Serena Ebhardt, director; Evan Feldman, conductor.

20-24 November

Die sieben Todsünden


Neues Kammerorchester Potsdam, GERMANY

Ud Joffe, conductor; Michaela Lucas, Anna I; Anja Peterson, Spielzeugfee.

20 November

Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny

Tiroler Landestheater und Symphonieorchester Innsbruck, AUSTRIA

Ulrich Peters, director; Alexander Rumpf, conductor.

21 November

The Seven Deadly Sins

China Philharmonic Orchestra, Beijing, CHINA

Lawrence Foster, conductor; Heidi Brunner, Anna I.

29 November

Die Dreigroschenoper

Moscow Art Theatre, RUSSIA

Kirill Serebrennikov, director; Alexander Manotskov, conductor.

29 November; 10 December

Weill songs

Berliner Philharmoniker, Kammermusiksaal, GERMANY

Angela Denoke, vocals; Tal Balshai, piano; Norbert Nagel, saxophones and flute.

1 December

Symphony No. 2

Münchner Philharmoniker, GERMANY

Michael Sanderling, conductor. 

8, 10 December

Kurt Weill Performance Calendar


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