Recensione Lonely House – selezione noir dei successi di Kurt Weill dall'esilio

We’re nearing the end of a medley from Lady in the Dark, il 1941 musical by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, quando l'umore diventa dolce ninna nanna. Seduto sul pianoforte a coda, Katharine Mehrling is picked out in a single spotlight, her blond hair and velvet dress emphasising the contrast between light and shade. It could be the closing image of a black-and-white movie – and that’s doubly appropriate.

Not only does this selection of Weill songs date from the black-and-white era – specifically, the German composer’s exile in Paris and New York in the 1930s and 40s – but it is loaded with a noirish sense of longing and regret. Even the prettier tunes have a brooding undertow.

From the piano, Barrie Kosky talks about a canon that combines “the loneliness and searching of the desert” with the “loneliness and searching of the city”. He should know. The artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin is sandwiching this weekend trip to the Edinburgh international festival between a premiere of The Threepenny Opera for the Berliner Ensemble and rehearsals for The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. He says Weill is a composer he couldn’t be without.

Which helps make this selection all the more ravishing. Mehrling’s tones are warm and assured, her range comfortably embracing everything from cabaret chanteuse on Le Grand Lustucru to sharp-talking propagandist on the fidgety Schickelgruber, an anti-Hitler polemic. On the tongue-twisting Tchaikovsky, she switches the words to rhyme with “Barrie Kosky”, while the pianist hits the keys with the nervous urgency of a man at a typewriter. His settings are typically spare and restrained, giving the singer all the room she needs for a plangent and seductive show.

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