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1927 __ « Der Zar lässt sich photographieren »
Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
Comment : The score of Kurt Weill's comic opera "Der Zar lässt sich photographieren" (1927) calls for a "Grammophon-Solo". At the climax of the opera, the orchestra falls silent and a tango for big band, composed by Weill, plays on a phonograph. (Mark Katz)“Der Zar lässt sich photographieren” (The Tsar Has his Photograph Taken') is an opera buffa in one act by Kurt Weill, op. 21. The German libretto was written by Georg Kaiser, and Weill composed the music in 1927. The opera was first performed at the Neues Theater in Leipzig on 18 February 1928. Weill had intended it to be a companion piece for Der Protagonist, though it was staged at its premiere with Nicola Spinelli's A basso porto (1894). Der Zar lässt sich photographieren and Der Protagonist were then performed together at Altenburg on 25 March of the same year. The first American performance took place on 27 October 1949, at the Juilliard School, New York. The first performance in the United Kingdom was at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, on 12 March 1986.Synopsis.(Place: a photographic studio in Paris - Time: 1914 ).An offstage male chorus chants the opera's title (and comments on the action from time to time). Angèle (the proprietress) and her male assistants, one of them a boy, have little work to do, but a telephone-call brings news that the Tsar wishes to have his photograph taken. A large box-camera is set up, but, before the Tsar arrives, four members of a gang of revolutionaries burst in. They bind and gag Angèle and her staff. Three of the gang dress up as Angèle, her assistant and the boy, and the leader of the gang, proclaiming that the revolution is imminent, conceals a gun in the camera. It will fire at the Tsar when the bulb used for taking the photograph is squeezed. The captives are put in another room, the leader hides, and the Tsar is announced. The Tsar is dressed in a summer suit and accompanied only by an equerry. He wants an informal portrait rather than an official one. He is attracted by the False Angèle and asks to be left alone with her. She is keen to take the photograph (i.e. to "shoot" him), but he flirts with her and offers to take her photograph first. She manages to avoid being accidentally shot by the Tsar, and is finally about to press the bulb to shoot him when the equerry re-appears to report that the police have followed some assassins to the studio. The false Angèle, realising that the game is up, puts on a seductive gramophone record (the "Tango Angèle") and asks the Tsar to avert his eyes while she undresses. She and the rest of the gang escape through the window just before the police arrive with the real Angèle and her assistants, who had previously themselves escaped and raised the alarm. The gun is removed from the camera, and the Tsar, though dismayed that the real Angèle is not as attractive as the false one, finally, as the chorus again says, "has his photograph taken".The opera's music is continuous, rather than arranged in "numbers". There are big orchestral climaxes at dramatic moments but also some popular-music forms, such as the foxtrot which accompanies the entrance of the Tsar. The "Tango Angèle" was specially recorded for the first performance, and is one of the earliest examples of pre-recorded music being used on stage in a dramatic work. It was Weill's first best-selling record. (Compiled from various sources)
Source : Katz, Mark (2004), "Capturing sound: how technology has changed music", Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 108.
Source : Cook, Susan (1988), “Opera for a New Republic : The Zeitopern of Krenek, Weill, and Hindemith”, Ann Arbor, MI : UMI Research Press, 1988, pp. 139-140.
Urls : http://www.kwf.org/kwf/kurt-weill/weill-works/229-n4main (last visited )

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