Music: Virtuosity in Shabby Dress

A new Met production gives Berlin's Kurt Weill his due

"What do you want to become," scoffed Ferruccio Busoni at his student, "a Verdi of the poor?" Replied Kurt Weill: "Would that be so bad?" Good or bad, it was not far off the mark. In the German musical scene of the 1920s, Weill emerged along with Paul Hindemith and Ernst Krenek as a leading operatic experimenter. He tried to recast traditional opera as a vital folk theater that would speak to the masses. Simplicity and comprehensibility were his bywords. He composed in the acid...

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