Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Music of Composer Kurt Weill
Presented by Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota

Stella Zambalis

David McFerrin

Kurt Weill's music is one of my great passions, so when Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota offered an evening devoted to him, I was found in the first row. Soprano Stella Zambalis and Baritone David McFerrin, accompanied by local favorite Joseph Holt, offered a program of the well known ("Mack the Knife," "Surabaya Johnny," "September Song," "Lost in the Stars"), the less well known ("Je ne t'aime pas," "My Ship," "Westwind") and the truly obscure ("I remember it well," "This is the Life," "Dirge for Two Veterans" and "Love is my Enemy.") I am pretty sure that whoever planned the program owns one of my favorite CDs, John McGlinn's "Kurt Weill on Broadway," as many of the less familiar selections sung are featured on the CD.

As we have moved away from the time when Weill and his muse Lotte Lenya were active, a more classical performance style has evolved for this music. Yes, sometimes it appears in popular venues, influenced by Lenya and her vocal inabilities, but just as often well schooled singers treat this repertoire with all the vocal love and polish imaginable. The great Teresa Stratas had a huge career boost from a role assumption of Jenny in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and subsequent exploration of the Weill repertoire in a pair of highly praised recordings. This concert presented by Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota definitely evolved from a more classical vocal view.

Mr. McFerrin opened the program with a beautifully voiced "Mack the Knife," first verse in pointed German, subsequent verses in Mark Blitzstein's famous English translation. Joseph Holt beautifully articulated the accompaniment as the texture changes from verse to verse. Next up was Ms. Zambalis with a luxuriously sung "Surabaya Johnny" in Michael Feingold's English version. This performance owed nothing to Lenya and everything to later interpreters, the drama from the pathos of Weill's music which was allowed to speak for itself. I found Ms. Zambalis' tempi throughout the night to be a bit on the slow side, but the voluptuousness of the voice offered compensating rewards. Other highlights from her included "Je ne t'aime pas", sung in its original French, "What Good Would the Moon Be" and "Lost in the Stars." Mr. McFerrin's offered wonderful, rich performances of "Love Song" and "This is the Life", both from Love Life, and "Dirge for Two Veterans," among others. The end of the published program was a duet from the not successful Firebrand of Florence, "Love is My Enemy." This dark, moody duet is definitely one of the standout numbers from the score.

Special mention must be made of Mr. Holt's role. All night long he offered wonderful pianistic support, and he also shared the richness of Weill's harmonic tapestry. Weill was the only composer of his time who orchestrated his own Broadway musicals; consequently, all of the interesting things going on underneath the vocal parts of the songs are the work of the composer, and Mr. Holt showed why I might consider myself a Weill fanatic. Bravo.

Music of Composer Kurt Weill, presented June 3 and 5, 2012, by Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota, at The Historic Asolo Theater, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941 306-1201. For more information, please visit

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--William S. Oser

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