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ALLA BREVE

August 30, 1987|ALLAN ULRICH

WEILL: "JOHNNY JOHNSON." Evelyn Lear, Lotte Lenya, Jean Sanders, Burgess Meredith, Hiram Sherman, Thomas Stewart, Scott Merrill; orchestra conducted by Samuel Matlowsky. Polydor 422-831384-1 (mono). Unavailable since the last LP reissue more than a decade ago, this 1956 recording of the Kurt Weill-Paul Green 1936 score fills a welcome gap in the composer's American career. The original production of this anti-war fantasy achieved only a succes d'estime on Broadway (the recent Los Angeles run proved the project's staying power); Weill did not find in Green a collaborator on an intellectual or poetic level with Bertolt Brecht, and the original cast of Group Theater denizens, none of them professional singers, limited the musical possibilities. But much of the score--including Johnny's haunting anthem, an acid-flecked tango and a sardonic paean to psychiatry--rank high among the composer's stateside inspirations. The cast dispatches its assignments with verve (Lenya does the French nurse's song); the digital remastering is serviceable.

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