Friday, September 05, 2014
James Rodgers Sings Kurt Weill
Last Saturday afternoon, in a beautiful Sea Cliff neighborhood home, the New Zealand tenor James Rodgers above offered an historical lecture on the life and career of composer Kurt Weill while singing 20 musical selections that ranged from pre-Nazi Germany to 1950s Broadway.
Rodgers recently recorded an abbreviated selection from the presentation and he's created a website where the historical survey is illustrated by tracks from the new CD (click here). At Saturday's concert, he started with Mackie Messer from Die Dreigroschenoper, continued with infrequently heard songs from German operetta, French chansons, and Broadway show tunes, then completed the circle with the transformation of Mackie Messer into Mack the Knife in a New York revival of The Threepenny Opera, which turned the song into a worldwide standard.
Rodgers was part of San Francisco Opera's Merola training program in the summer of 2008, when he had the good luck to be housed by patrons Barbara and Peter Winkelstein above, major admirers of Weill.
Barbara died in 2001, but the house was filled with her remarkable portrait paintings, and her presence during the afternoon was palpable.
Rodgers above may have been a bit too ambitious with this program, narrating the historical text and singing the varied musical material for over two hours, and his voice started to falter at its highest range. For the piece to work as a show, he needs to edit about a third of the musical material and half the narration, though on a story-by-story, song-by-song basis, it was an entertaining afternoon.
Rodgers currently lives in New York these days with his pianist wife, Jillian Zack, who accompanied the recital beautifully. She even provided accompaniment for each of the narrated sections with more of Weill's music, and she was so consistently good that I sometimes stopped listening to the narrator and simply concentrated on her music making instead.
The intimacy of the concert setting could not have been more charming, and there was even food and New Zealand beer and wine for bloggers like Axel Feldheim above, who also had a very good time.