Richard and I saw this Kurt Weill oratorio at Carnegie Hall on 5/6, performed by the Collegiate Chorale and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. I’m a huge Weill fan, he’s one of my favorite composers, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever have another opportunity to hear this piece. It has a libretto by Franz Werfel, it was first performed in 1937 under the title *The Eternal Road*. It was five hours long, so I bet it really did seem eternal. The rebranded version we saw, *The Road of Promise*, is just over two hours long - - but it turned out to be only half that long, because we left at intermission!
The usual: it was boring. Much of the music was beautiful, but most of it was not very inspired. It sounded like first rate Hollywood movie music. Which I love, but is it right for an oratorio about the suffering of the Jewish people? I kept thinking of that great quote by Bette Davis: she was filming *Dark Victory* and was about to do the scene at the end where she knows she’s dying of a brain aneurysm (or some such thing) and blindly, placidly, heroically walks up a flight of stairs. She turned to the director, Edmund Goulding, before she did the first take, and said, “Is Max Steiner going to be doing the music score to this picture?” Goulding said he didn’t know, and asked why she was asking such a trivial question just before filming such an important scene. She said, “Well, either I’m going to climb those stairs or Max Steiner is going to climb those stairs, but I’ll be God-damned if Max Steiner and I are going to climb those stairs together!” Of course Steiner did write some soupy music to accompany Davis going up the stairs, and I’m sure she threw a tantrum. Anyway, Weill sounds a little like Max Steiner in this piece, and not in a good way.
Anthony Dean Griffey sang the role of the rabbi, and he was very good. He has a lovely voice and really seemed to care about the piece. Mark Delavan sang the role of Abraham and later Moses, and he was NOT very good. He has a gorgeous voice, and often sounded great, but gave the impression of not caring at all. There was one sequence when it sounded like he didn’t really know how it went - - I wasn’t 100% sure, because I’d never heard it before, but it shore did sound like he was making it up. And this is Kurt Weill, it’s not what I would call challenging music. This is not Xenakis.