Plans to premiere Kurt Weill’s Tom Sawyer

Plans to premiere Kurt Weill’s Tom Sawyer


norman lebrecht

March 23, 2020

The composer was working on an American children’s opera around the time of his death in 1950.

Barrie Kosky, unfurling his next season at Berlin’s Komische Oper today, announced plans to piece the Mark Twain fragments together for the first time.

‘The show will go on,’ he declared.

Here’s the one-man season launch


    • anon says:

      odd, very odd

      – a children’s opera with no children in it, where Tom and Huck are sung by adult baritones (even with adults in Hansel und Gretel, Hansel is a trouser role)

      – the suspension of disbelief can only go so far, the antics of a 12 year old are amusing, the antics of a 12 year old re-enacted by an adult man are…weird

      – Tom and Huck never spoke better literary German

      I guess it must be a parody, ironic, like Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang all played by depressed and neurotic adults

  • Alexandra says:

    Very odd to read that Times obit, where the subtitles listed everything BUT The Threepenny Opera – his all-time biggest stage hit! And it was made into a film in 1933 too.

    • Jack says:

      It mentions The Threepenny Opera in paragraph seven of the NYTimes obituary, and that it brought him international acclaim.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I am always leery of these pieced-together-from-fragments posthumous works.
    Mahler 10, Beethoven 10, Elgar 3, Debussy “Rodrigue et Chimene”, even Mozart’s Requiem – they may be fun and even inspiring to listen to, but they are NOT the work of the composer.
    I’ll stick to the COMPLETED Weill works, thank you very much.

    • Stuart says:

      Mahler 10 – a perfectly justifiable completion. Same with Elgar 3. Mozart’s requiem is more Mozart than reconstruction so why avoid it? Same with Berg’s Lulu. Do you avoid Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann for similar reasons? Cannot call any of these pieced-together-from-fragments. Agree with you Beethoven 10 and Weill’s Tom Sawyer.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      It’s not accurate to label Mahler 10 as “pieced together from fragments”. A melodic line and implied harmony is there, even in the most sparse sections that Mahler left . There is a continuous, connecting narrative from start to finish. What IS true to say, is that Cooke’s – or anyone else’s version – is not a completion. Cooke is very specific in calling his achievement a, ‘performing version’. To that end, he had help from Berthold Goldschmidt. There’s no question Mahler would have kept reworking it and nobody can fully copy his orchestration techniques. I have zero allusions about that. However, I’m also convinced – even with what we have now – that the 10th would have been Mahler’s best five movement, arch from symphony (If you look at symphonies 5, 7 and 10, Mahler kept tightening up the middle movement).

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Stuart and Barry….
      In my posting referring to the various posthumous completions of works by famous composers, I did NOT make any value judgement as to anything along the lines of what is “justifiable” (Stuart) or any assertion of exactly what is a “continuous, connecting narrative” (Guerrero).
      What I actually wrote was, and I quote myself: “they (the completions) may be fun and even inspiring to listen to, but they are NOT the work of the composer”. I stand by those words.
      Any further questions?

  • WillymH says:

    Hands up everyone who has seen Der Protagonist! Or Tsar Has Himself Photographed – what strange works to cite as his best-known? Though maybe they were at the time?

  • fflambeau says:

    What a stupid headline: “Also turned out operas.”

  • Old guy says:

    Another American composer Keith Gates wrote a wonderful opera, Tom Sawyer. Gates was pretty good Juilliard trained composer. A finished work and really excellent for children and use of American Folk idioms

  • Ed Isaacs says:

    I believe the composer and librettist Maxwell Anderson were adapting Huckleberry Finn to the stage; the proposed production — judging by the video of a recent German staging — apparently adds elements of Tom Sawyer and adapts or repurposes the completed songs accordingly. Fifty years ago I was able to buy the sheet music to four or five of the posthumously published songs, from Weill’s American publisher. All were effective and memorable.