Mack the Knife – Lotte Lenya & Louis Armstrong

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Lotte Lenya & Louis Armstrong

Further to my previous Kurt Weil,  Music Monday post. I must mention the Beggars’ Opera. Composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) transformed the sweet old-fashioned operetta forms of their time into sharp political perspectives with sounds of 1920s Berlin dance bands and cabaret.

The show’s opening number, Macky Messer (Mack the Knife) became one of the top popular songs of the 20th Century. Legendary and popular artists such as Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Liberace, Michael Bublé, Robbie Williams have all done their own rendition of this tune, though only Lotte Lenya, the wife of Weil who it was written for, had the menacing voice that could be appropriate to a song about such a horrible serial killer!

It was known in English as The Threepenny Opera. The British/Hollywood film version does not have Mack the Knife as a song and includes Kenneth Williams in a remarkable straight-acting role. The original was first staged at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin in 1928. It eventually became a great success, playing 400 times in the next two years.

Click HERE to listen to a rare recording of Luis Armstrong and Lotte Lenya singing Mack the Knife in english:

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