Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Albert Coates conducts Hanns Eisler Pagliacci

Albert Coates conducts the Boyd Neel Orchestra playing  Hanns Eisler? No, not Kampflieder or the German Symphony but Eisler's version of Pagliacci. A few weeks ago I attended the first ever UK Conference on Hanns Eisler. One of the papers was Peter Schweinhardt's "My work was nil": An attempt to Rescue Eisler's Peculiar Pagliacci"

This interesting venture came from Trafalgar Studios in 1936. It's in English, with words by John Drinkwater, the poet.. English text, Boyd Neel, Trafalgar, London, Albert Coates, the epitome of Establishment Britishism? In  fact the studio was fronted by a German émigré called  Max Schach, directed by Karl Grune, and employed Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler.

The idea was, I think, to turn the opera into an extravagant star vehicle for Richard Tauber, who sings all the parts and dances, too. There's extra dialogue, new scenarios and state of the art colour processing. The studio collapsed soon after, having made only three films, putting its employees out of work, and owing creditors big money. Crafty Brecht had already been paid, enough for him to buy a house in Denmark, though his work wasn't used and he's not credited.  Eisler said "My work was nil", but Schweinhardt shows how Eisler rearranged some of the music and added some completely original passages.

Schweinhardt showed clips from the film, and others are available on youtube. Now here are some quotes too good to miss. Opera Quarterly 1986/4, :"Indigestible, yet wierdly tempting....Tauber appears as a rotund, benevolent Big Daddy..... a W C Fields snowstorm...final catastrophe before an audience of hundreds in Cremona"  Now I want to see the whole. .

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