BERTOLT BRECHT COLLECTED PLAYS: Volume 2 by Ralph & John T. Willet--Ed. Manheim

BERTOLT BRECHT COLLECTED PLAYS: Volume 2

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Scholar-translators Manheim & Willet continue their authorized, all-new Brechtin-English project (vols. l, 5--7, and 9 are already out) with three early (19251929) landmark works--A Man's A Man, the ""Kiplingesque"" epic of docker Galy Gay's transformation, and the two great collaborations with Kurt Weill: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and Threepenny Opera. A strong introduction, a wealth of Brechtian addenda, and elaborate, editorial text-tracking surround the scripts. A Man's A Man has Brecht's ""appendix"" playlet, The Baby Elephant, his prefaces, radio talks, notes, and letters--and a fragment of his own translation of Scene 1, a translation that's far looser than that of Manheim-Willet's choice, Gerhard Nellhaus (Brecht: ""That small fish, what kind shall it be?""/ Nellhaus: ""And of what kind should the fish be which you require?""). Mahagonny (translated by Michael Feingold, drama critic of The Village Voice) and Threepenny (in the Manheim-Willet translation that triumphed last year at Lincoln Center) are graced not only with Brecht's additional songs, ""Hints for Actors,"" and thoughts on opera and singing, but also with comments by Weill and set designer Caspar Neher. And the editors' Threepenny notes involve detailed comparisons with John Gay's Beggar's Opera. As for the translations themselves--the Threepenny lyrics will prove a shock for those familiar only with the free, softened, and supremely singable Marc Blitzstein version; these new ones emphasize the contrast between Brecht's brutality and Weill's mellow sweetness (in the nostalgic tango: ""He was so sweet and bashed me where it hurt""). Feingold's work is less consistent, ranging from rough-edged strength to non-Brechtian awkwardness (""If there's got to be kicks, then I'll give them/ And the kicked one, believe me, will be you""). However, this--except for the Auden-Kalman British version (published this month by David R. Godine)--is the only Mahagonny available; that alone makes this volume indispensable, even for those who may prefer aspects of the Eric Bentley adaptations of A Man's A Man and Threepenny.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1977
Publisher: Random House