Beginning this month, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) will celebrate the iconic work and enduring legacy of composer Kurt Weill with an unprecedented series of events. Opening on Friday, Oct. 19, and running through Tuesday, March 12, CCM's Kurt Weill Festival will incorporate the renowned theatre composer into a broad range of both public performances and classroom exercises.
Perhaps best known for The Threepenny Opera and its opening ballad, "Mack the Knife," Weill's work has been championed by performers as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Nina Simone, The Doors, Judy Collins, Teresa Stratas, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Todd Rundgren, Tom Waits, Lou Reed and Sting.
CCM's yearlong Kurt Weill Festival will include Mainstage opera and musical theatre productions, cabaret performances, collaborative concerts, master classes and more. Funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, CCM has never before hosted a festival of this magnitude.
"An inter-disciplinary series featuring productions of Street Scene and The Threepenny Opera – two very different stage works from Weill's wide-ranging output – illustrates CCM's renowned versatility in diverse genres of musical theatre," explains Kurt Weill Foundation Director Carolyn Weber. "The schedule of stage productions, concerts and ancillary activities, unprecedented in scope in an academic context, has inspired the Foundation to expand its sponsorship program to cover leading academic institutions in addition to professional performing arts organizations, and we hope the CCM festival will set the stage for other such sponsorships in the future."
"The Kurt Weill Festival was born out of the kind of collaborations and synchronicities that are a unique part of the CCM experience," says Robin Guarino, CCM's J. Ralph Corbett Chair of Opera. "Last spring Aubrey Berg (CCM's Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theater) approached me about directing The Threepenny Opera as part of the Musical Theatre program's Mainstage Series. As it happened, the Opera Department had just decided to produce Weill's Street Scene for the first time in the history of the school. At the same time, Associate Professor of Musicology and resident Weill Scholar bruce mcclung and Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Gibson began discussions about programming a Weill cabaret project as part of a collaboration between CCM's departments of opera, orchestral studies and jazz studies with bruce mcclung acting as Dramaturg."
From these beginnings, the festival has grown to become a near-college-wide celebration of Weill's music, with CCM's choral, jazz, musical theatre, opera and orchestral programs incorporating the composer's work into their 2012-13 programs. In turn, this programming has created opportunities for exciting new collaborations with CCM's electronic media, musicology and theatre design & production departments.
This broad, cross-disciplinary appeal makes perfect sense to mcclung, who characterizes Weill as "a prototypical crossover composer." A recipient of the Kurt Weill prize in 2007, mcclung explains, "Weill's music engages with the central aesthetic debates of our time: elitism versus populism, autonomy versus accessibility and modernism versus postmodernism."
Guest Artist Roster
CCM will welcome a number of renowned guest artists, distinguished scholars and master teachers as part of this yearlong celebration, giving the festival considerable star power. The Kurt Weill Festival's distinguished guests include:
• Victoria Clark – The Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner will lead master classes on "Interpreting Weill" for CCM Opera and Musical Theatre students from Nov. 9-10.
• Kim Kowalke – Kurt Weill Foundation president will host a pre-show lecture before the opening performance of Street Scene on Nov. 15 and host a lecture on "What Makes Weill Weill" on Nov. 16.
• Ted Sperling – The Tony and Drama Desk award-winning director, conductor, arranger and musician will lead two days of master classes on "The Music of Kurt Weill in Performance" from Jan. 10-11.
• John Arnone – The Tony Award-winner will join CCM as guest scenic designer for the spring Mainstage production of The Threepenny Opera.
• Howard Pollack – The University of Houston Professor of Music and Kurt Weill Foundation grant-recipient will host both a mid-afternoon and a pre-show lecture on The Threepenny Opera on March 1.
Schedule of Events
A pair of cabaret-style programs will bookend CCM's Kurt Weill Festival. With an October 2012 cabaret produced by CCM's Department of Opera and a March 2013 cabaret produced by the Department of Musical Theatre, these events stand as a testament to Weill's enduring legacy in both classical and popular contexts.
Festival highlights also include fully staged productions of two of the composer's most important works: Street Scene (Nov. 15 – 18) and The Threepenny Opera (Feb. 28 – March 10) along with concert performances of Weill's Kiddush (Prayer of Sanctification) and the a capella madrigal "Ho, Billy, O!" from the Weill musical Love Life (1948).
Please see individual listings below for additional information on the festival's public events.