Thursday, January 12, 2006

Show Us the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar!

I’ve been listening to Kurt Weill nonstop for the past 36 hours. All that grating, snarling, rasping, guttural German just seems perfect for my mood. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that should cheer me up, but it has. Plus, there’s the instrumentation: the tinny trumpet, the wheezing accordion, the slightly out-of-tune piano, the jaunty banjo, and the squeaky clarinet—so endearing!

It’s been a while (vhile?) since I’ve listened to Weill. Oh don’t ask why. Oh don’t ask why. We have a respectable number of Weill CDs: The Threepenny Opera, of course, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Happy End, and two volumes of Ute Lemper singing Weill.

I think I like the Lemper CDs the best. She has such an amazingly versatile and elastic voice. B and I went to a concert of hers when we lived in Chicago. It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. She sang in German, English, and French, prefacing each song with a hilarious little anecdote. Great comic timing, too. I remember a lot of jokes about the Germans having no sense of humor. Clearly, she’s an exception. And as if all that wasn’t enough, she’s stunningly beautiful! And her diction—A+! I love listening to her machine-gun out those floog, aus, einer, auf, ist, hooooor, lächerlich, käuft, glouch, grrrösser-type words. Totally phonetic guesses and random umlaut placement by the way--I know no German myself. Those of you who speak German will be either bemused or amused.

It makes me want to learn German properly so I can walk around and scare people with it. This is all I know: wunderbar (not scary), schnitzel (not scary), achtung (slightly scary), nein (scary if said forcefully enough). I wanted to take German when I was in 7th grade. My school sent us home with a permission slip (?) that had four language choices on it: Latin, German, French, and Spanish. Even back then there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to take German. I remember a conversation with my mom that went something like this:

Me: I want to take German.
Mom: No.
Me: Why not?
Mom: Because of Hitler.

OK, recall that my mom was alive during World War II, so I guess I can understand that, but all I ever remember her saying about World War II was that people used to tell her that if Germany won the war, “we’d all end up speaking German.” Like that would be the worst thing that would happen if Germany had won the war! Not that we would be living in a fascist society—a fascist society that would no doubt continue carrying out genocide on a massive scale. Nope. That was not a concern, apparently. Anyway, my mom was young and naive during World War II, so I guess I should have cut her some slack on that, but really I don’t think the fact that Hitler spoke German was a valid reason for preventing me from taking German. I settled for French, which was not even a close second choice—and I hated it. I could never warm up to all that snooty nasality. But it would be totally thrilling to know where to put he umlauts, what to call those weird B-looking things, and to be able to let something like the following roll effortlessly off my tongue:

Sie werden heute abend eine Oper für Bettler sehen. Weil diese Oper so prunkvoll gedacht war, wie nur Bettler sie erträumen, und weil sie doch so bilig sine solte, daß Bettler sie bezahlen können, heißt sie “Die Dreigroschenoper.”


Post a Comment

<< Home