All over again

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  January 28, 2010

The “set” consisted of rows of chairs, first lined up to look like train seats, later as a boat deck, as the émigrés sailed into New York harbor. For “Mack the Knife,” Torgove had the cast members, on the train, hide their faces in the newspapers they were reading; but with each new verse, a different scandal sheet was lowered to confide to us Mack’s latest atrocity. The ferocious “Kanonen-Song” (“Cannon Song”) from Die Dreigroschenoper was delivered as a kick line — except that everyone kicking was sitting down.

The songs, many of the most famous ones (“Surabaya Johnny,” “Alabama Song,” “The Saga of Jenny”), were delicious, some in brilliantly original arrangements by the New England Conservatory’s John Greer. But there was a classic Cantata Singers emphasis on more obscure works, like Der Silbersee (“Silver Sea”) and Marie Galante, that made me ache for full performances. Greer’s most masterful arrangement had mezzo Majie Zeller, on stage, singing “My Ship” (from Lady in the Dark), in counterpoint with Angelynne Hinson, a silver-voiced soprano I wish I’d paid more attention to over the years, singing Marie Galante’s “J’attends un navire” (“I await a ship”) in the aisle. Pianist Miriam Charney and percussionist Dean Anderson joined Voth as the orchestra.

It was a long program not to have an intermission, especially for an audience with many senior citizens. Yet I also regretted the omission of numerous songs I love (the “Sailor Tango” from Happy End; “Speak Low,” Weill’s magical collaboration with Ogden Nash from One Touch of Venus; Ira Gershwin’s hilarious patter song from Lady in the Dark, “Tchaikovsky”). With the addition of an intermission, each part could conceivably have been extended. Several people afterward asked me whether I knew was this Weill cabaret going to be done again. I hope so. I’d go.

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