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The Juilliard School and New York Festival of Song Present "Kurt Weill’s Berlin"
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The Juilliard School and New York Festival of Song Present "Kurt Weill’s Berlin"

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The Juilliard School
Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts
Brian Zeger, Artistic Director

New York Festival of Song
Steven Blier, Artistic Director, Co-Founder
Michael Barrett, Assoc. Artistic Director, Co-Founder

Kurt Weill’s Berlin

Steven Blier, Piano, Texts, Arrangements,
Translations, Program Notes, Commentary

Mary Birnbaum, Stage Director

Sopranos: Anneliese Klenetsky and Jaylyn Simmons
Mezzo-Soprano: Shakèd Bar
Tenor: Chance Jonas-O’Toole
Baritones: Gregory Feldmann and Jack Kay
Bass-Baritone: William Socolof
Musical Asst.: Nikolay Verevkin
Banjo: Jack Gulielmetti

At Peter Jay Sharp Theater


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 17, 2019

Read about Kurt Weill here.

Once again New York Festival of Song, under the masterful guidance of its Artistic Director, pianist, arranger, host, narrator, translator, and true Renaissance man, Steven Blier, teamed up with the vocal arts division of Juilliard for a fantastic event at Peter Jay Sharp Theater. On stage tonight were two sopranos, Anneliese Klenetsky and Jaylynn Simmons, mezzo-soprano, Shakèd Bar, tenor, Chance Jonas-O’Toole, baritones, Gregory Feldmann and Jack Kay, and bass-baritone, William Socolof. Also on stage was Jack Gulielmetti on banjo and musical assistant, Nikolay Verevkin. Mr. Blier’s theme of the night was Kurt Weill’s Berlin. The program notes, as always, were translated, here from German to English, so one can follow the sung German lyrics or their English intent, during the performance. Also, the program divided the songs into City Life, Berlin in Bed, Weill’s Last Stand: Der Silbersee (1933), Lost and Found: Happy End (1929), Men, Women, and Money, and The Gathering Storm. Representative composers, in addition to Kurt Weill (1900-50), were Frederick Hollander (1896-1976), Olaf Bienert (1911-67), Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935), Rudolf Nelson (1878-1960), and Hanns Eisler (1898-1962).

The assortment of songs, evocative of Berlin’s pre-World War II Kabaretts, with all their angst-filled romances, politics, finances, and societal ills, ranged in lyrical theme and tone from romantic, to poignant, to raucous, to crooning, to feisty, to torrid, to distraught, to giddy. And, that’s a cabaret, my chum, to paraphrase a song by Kander and Ebb. In this NYFOS / Juilliard show, solos merge into duos, into trios, and so on. Weill’s Berlin im Licht (“Berlin in Lights”) opened the evening, with Mr. Jonas-O’Toole and Mr. Socolof singing in robust, breezy style, a song foreboding Berlin’s economic downturn. English translations of additional tunes that highlighted the evening include Bienert’s “Eyes in the Big City”, sung by Mr. Kay, with members of the ensemble in theatrical mime as a backdrop. “A stranger’s eye entreats, And your heart races, Is he a friend, Is he a foe, Is he the lover, You longed to discover…” Hollander’s “Don’t Step All Over My Shoes”, sung by Ms. Klenetsky, found her surrounded by the four male singers in more fanciful, choreographed mime. Mary Birnbaum, Stage Director, kept the action visually enticing.

Tucholsky’s “Sleepless Lady”, sung by Ms. Bar in a coy, flirtatious attitude, added sparkle to her lovely lyrics, in the moment. “To spend my nights with a Prince-Charming, I married one, but time goes by, And changes transpire_Sometimes it’s very alarming, Now I would prefer not to sleep in twos…” Bienert’s “Song of Indifference”, sung by Ms. Simmons, was one of my favorites. Ms. Simmons’ cognac vocals, matching the exceptional talent of each of tonight’s young, vocal artists, added rich tones to this feisty song. “I’ve got this bag of tricks, men are men and other men the night is bringing, And my purse is slowly swinging…” Another favorite tune was Weill’s composition to Brecht’s text, “Nanna’s Lied”, sung by Ms. Klenetsky. Brecht quotes a wonderful French poet, François Villon, whose famous phrase is “Mais où sont les neiges d'antan”. Translation, “But, where are the snows of yesteryear?”. In “Nanna’s Lied”, Ms. Klenetsky sang Brecht’s German translation, “Wo ist der Schnee vom vergangenen Jahr?”, echoing at the end of each verse. This was a song of love and pain.

Mr. Feldmann’s solo, Eisler’s Der Graben (“The Trenches”), was a wrenching wartime tune. “Stretch the hand of brotherhood as the most precious of gifts, over the trenches, my people, over the trenches!” He sang with authentic sadness and anger. The full ensemble closed the evening with “As You Make Your Bed, You Must Lie There”, from Weill’s singular, combative Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. “And if someone’s going to kick, then it’ll be me. And if someone’s going to get kicked, it’ll be you…A human being is not a beast”. Every emotion a song could spark was on display tonight. On banjo, Mr. Gulielmetti added edgy, cabaret effects. Kudos to Steven Blier, who was awarded with a strong, sustained ovation, kudos to the Julliard and NYFOS artists and staff, and kudos to Kurt Weill. Here is one of Weill’s iconic tunes.

Steven Blier on Piano, with
Jaylyn Simmons, Shakèd Bar, Anneliese Klenetsky
in New York Festival of Song's
Kurt Weill's Berlin
Courtesy of Cherylynn Tsushima

Jack Gulielmetti on Guitar,
Nikolay Verevkin, Musical Asst.,
Steven Blier on Piano,
with Tenor, Chance Jonas-O'Toole
in New York Festival of Song's
Kurt Weill's Berlin
Courtesy of Cherylynn Tsushima

Jack Kay, Ms. Klenetsky,
Mr. Jonas-O'Toole, Gregory Feldmann,
and William Socoloff
in New York Festival of Song's
Kurt Weill's Berlin
Courtesy of Cherylynn Tsushima