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Paulanne Simmons


“The Partnership: Brecht, Weill, Three Women, and Germany on the Brink”
January 14th
Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton St Brooklyn, NY 11217
Wednesday January 14th at 7:30pm
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 5, 2014

Lyricist and playwright, Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill’s brief collaboration gave birth to only one work that can be identified by the average theatergoer. And that work, “The Threepenny Opera,” contains only one song that can be called a standard, “Mack the Knife,” best known in Bobby Darin’s version. But their partnership had an originality and depth that made a major impact on both the theatrical and musical world.

Pamela Katz, whose film, television and fiction writing demonstrate a longtime interest in Weill and Brecht, concentrates on their collaboration in her new book, “The Partnership: Brecht, Weill, Three Women, and Germany on the Brink.” New Yorkers had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the author and her work on Jan. 9 when the 86th Street Barnes and Noble hosted “A Reading with Music,” featuring the author reading excerpts from her book, and Amy Burton (singer) and Gerald Howard (piano) performing Brecht and Weill’s best-known work.

Katz’s book explains why the tempestuous relationship that began with “The Alabama Song” could survive the rise of Hitler in the Weimar Republic, which turned Weill (a Jew) and Brecht (a Communist) into refugees, but couldn’t prevail over the disagreements caused by their personal incompatibilities. The three women are Brecht’s stoic companion, Helene Weigel and his artistic assistant, Elisabeth Hauptmann; and Lotte Lenya, Weill’s on-again-off-again wife and a star in her own right.

Katz’s writing is fluid and highly descriptive, perfect for a public reading. And she combines the readings and performances seamlessly and intelligently.

Amy Burton, a leading soprano with the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera, delivered Brecht and Weill’s songs with operatic power. For those interested in another interpretation, Katz’s next reading, on Jan14 at 7:30pm at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, will feature cabaret singer Karen Kohler, with Benjamin Ickes on accordion.


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