Premiere of a new concert version of Kurt Weill's "The Eternal Road" - April 22 at Haverford College
Date: April 16, 2012
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
The Haverford-Bryn Mawr College Chorale and Chorale Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Lloyd, will perform a new concert-length version of Kurt Weill's rarely performed landmark work, The Eternal Road (also known as "Der Weg der Verheissung" or "The Way of Promise"). The performance will take place on Sunday, April 22 at 3:00 in Roberts Hall, Marshall Auditorium at Haverford College, Haverford, PA. The concert is free and open to the public.
In 1933, Meyer Weisgal, an activist in the American Zionist movement, commissioned Kurt Weill and the playwright Franz Werfel to create a biblical pageant in New York that would draw the world’s attention to the plight of German Jews under Nazism. The result was a combination of theater, oratorio, opera, and pageant lasting well over five hours. Though The Eternal Road received positive reviews following its 1937 opening, the budget for the extravagant Norman Bel Geddes production—which featured a cast of 245 performers—caused it to close prematurely, after 153 performances. It would be 63 years before The Eternal Road received its first and only full revival, at Chemnitz, Germany, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2000. Other performances, in 1998, featured only portions of the work, including an adaptation of Act IV performed in Vienna and London; and of Acts III and IV, performed in New York by Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra.
Haverford Associate Professor of Music Thomas Lloyd was given permission by the Kurt Weill Foundation to compile a new two-hour long concert version of the work. The new version incorporates music from all four acts, connected by spoken narration which condenses the action of Franz Werfel’s “play within a play.”
The Werfel play deals primarily with a diverse congregation of Jewish refugees in an unknown place and time who have come together to escape an imminent threat of persecution. Representing a broad spectrum of Jews, from the most assimilated to the most observant, they seek the wisdom of the Rabbi (sung and spoken by Benjamin Warschawski in this performance) as to what they should do next to preserve their physical and cultural existence. The Rabbi responds by suggesting that they listen to the story of The Eternal Road (those who have gone before them), and reads from the Torah as the congregation (the choir) and the soloists act out the selected biblical scenes. The central figures of Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and Jeremiah are sung by baritone Jason Switzer. The concert version also preserves the central role of “The Youth,” a young man of Bar Mitzvah age who asks the Rabbi the most probing questions and, in the end, is the one who leads those gathered into the future.
The ending of the drama can be interpreted in a number of different ways, and the work as a whole provides a rare and intimate view of the mindset of European Jews at the beginning of the Nazi reign of terror but well before the full impact of the Holocaust and the founding of Israel.