Lost Kurt Weill Song Reborn at the BranchDate: 22 June 2009
A new biographical revue of Kurt Weill is to feature a number from Weill’s only English musical A Kingdom for a Cow, not seen or heard in London since 1935.
Opening at Islington’s Rosemary Branch Theatre on 7 July, Here I’ll Stay tells the story of the Jewish composer’s journey from Nazi Germany to Broadway through 26 of his finest songs, including the forgotten ‘As Long as I Love’.
The ballad was one of six songs added to A Kingdom for a Cow, which Weill adapted from his unperformed German piece, Die Kuhhandel , during a brief London stay before he left Europe for America. The theatre impresario CB Cochran had insisted the show – a morality tale about arms dealing in the Caribbean – be made more palatable to English audiences.
How it came into the hands of production company Homos Promos is another matter. As Peter Scott-Presland, director of Here I’ll Stay, explains: “A friend of mine knew my passion for Weill and came across the sheet music and an original theatre programme at a car boot sale. It’s a fascinating piece because it shows Weill’s talent for being a musical chameleon. Hearing it, you think of Ivor Novello, or Vivian Ellis, but it still somehow retains Weill’s fingerprints.”
Unfortunately for Kurt Weill (and the aforementioned Mr Cochran), the original production of A Kingdom for a Cow closed after just a fortnight, in part due to the anti-Semitism of reviews. The Times critic even suggested that Weill’s music was a good reason for Hitler to have thrown him out of Germany.
However, England’s loss was America’s gain, with Weill going on to become one of Broadway and Hollywood’s most valued composers and his song ‘Mack the Knife’ an industry standard. Die Kuhhandel was revived in an English translation by Opera North in 2006, but the English version has all but vanished, making Here I’ll Stay a must-see for Weill admirers everywhere.