An evening with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill

The small theatre was totally sold out: all places taken. Then a group showed up. No reservation is no ticket is no seat – but they’d either barged or been allowed in. The group sat down anyway, managing to block access to the stage and hampering the performance later on.

Fortunately, they did not belong to any group of mine. Plenty in the audience whispered and gave them dagger-looks: such lack of manners! But once the NEUE struck up music and German actor Hans Radloff started singing “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer”, everybody was caught in the web spun by musicians and actor.

This spell lasted till the very last note of the very last song – an extra one – died away. It was not just a good performance. It was magic. It was one of Salon Branoul’s most captivating and impressive evenings this year.

After the seating of the unexpected guests was sorted out and before the performance started, Emlyn Stam introduced the evening’s program. We knew we were in for a recital in German and plenty of Bertold Brecht’s poetry. Mr Stam warned it would not all be political poetry. Not all the music was by Kurt Weill either.

He outlined a program related to the Berlin and DDR theatre and cabaret tradition of the 20th century. Ms Gabrielle de Koning had ensured the NEUE (New European Ensemble) and actor Hans Radloff met. The meeting resulted in this perfect one-hour cabaret cum literary salon performance. One simply hopes, this team will organise another outstanding evening next year.

Brecht and Weill Seerauber JennieOf course, there were a few familiar pieces by Brecht and Weill. Most people and many in the audience knew Brecht and Weill’s “Dreigrosschen Oper”, based on Gray’s English “Beggar’s Opera”. “Moritat von Mackie Messer” is famous. (Unfamiliar with it? Scroll down and use the Youtube link.)

Hans Radloff not only recited poetry, but also sang songs with biting texts, lyrical verses, romantic lines, haunting or shocking images. It all evoked the 20th century with its wars, poverty, hunger, crimes, deaths, love, hope. Apart from songs and music by Brecht and Weill, there were also pieces by Paul Hindemith, Hanns Eisler, Franz Bruinier.

It is difficult to select favourites. Being unfamiliar with Hanns Eisler’s “Das Lied vom Weib des Nazisoldaten”, I was impressed. But Brecht’s “Bücherverbrännung”, “O falladah die du hangest”, “Ich benötige keinen Grabstein” and many more also impressed!


Other poems which stuck in my mind were “Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters” with its “… Cäsar schlug die Gallier. – Hatte er nicht wenigstens einen Koch bei sich? …”, “Die Pappel vom Karlsplatz” and “Seeräuber Jenny”. Officially, the program ended with Kurt Weill’s “Der song von Mandelay”, but to round off this magical performance, there was one last song – before actor, musicians and a majority of the public filed into the bar next door.

A memorable performance which ended far too soon, but fortunately many of the texts and songs are to be found on the internet:

Youtube “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer”, die Dreigroschenoper; Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Lotte Lenya
Youtube “Seerauber Jenny”, die Dreigroschenoper; Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Lotte Lenya

Salon Branoul – Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill
Hans Radloff: poetry reading and singing;
Emlyn Stam: violin;
Jacob Kellermann: guitar;
Daan Treur: piano;
Ryanne Hofman: clarinet;
Isabel Vaz: cello.



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