Tracks

Play

Track

Time

Act I "The Patriarchs" Scene 6 Abraham and Isaac 02:22
Act I "The Patriarchs" Scene 7 Jacob and the Angel 02:27
Act I "The Patriarchs" Scene 8 Jacob and Rachel 04:48
Act I "The Patriarchs" Scene 16 The death of Jacob 04:08
Act II "Moses" Scene 17 In Egypt/Miriam and Moses 07:47
Act II "Moses" Scene 20 Moses receives the Commandments/Dance around the golden calf 05:09
Act II "Moses" Scene 21 The Beam, Moses 02:12
Act II "Moses" Scene 22 Moses addresses the people 03:48
Act II "Moses" Scene 23 Moses gives the Commandments/The death of Moses 15:40
Act III "The Kings" Scene 24 Naomi and Ruth 04:51
Act III "Ruth and Boaz" Scene 24 cont. 05:09
Act IV "The Prophets" Scene 32 Isaiah and Jeremiah 03:24
Act IV "The Prophets" Scene 33 The streets of Jerusalem 03:14
Act IV "The Prophets" Scene 34 Jeremiah 01:24
Act IV "The Prophets" Scenes 35 & 36 Chananiah the false propeht/the mob attacks Jeremiah 01:35
Act IV "The Prophets" Scene 40 Transformation/Finale 04:19
 

Liner Notes

The Eternal Road is an unprecedented work of art, spectacle, and pageantry in the service of a Jewish historical and ideological message. It is unique in the history of the American stage, not least for its scope, scale, vision, and sheer stature—and for the profile of its creative collaborators. It has been called a pageant, an opera, a music-drama, a staged oratorio, a biblical morality play, a biblical epic, and a biblical extravaganza—even a “Jewish passion play.” That the work still defies generic definition after nearly seventy years is testament to its singularity. This recording features musical highlights from the original score, representing about one third of the entire work.

The Eternal Road was the brainchild of the flamboyant impresario, producer, promoter, and mainstream Zionist activist and leader, Meyer Weisgal. He conceived the project with a threefold interrelated purpose: to respond to the state-sponsored persecution of Jews in Germany following the National Socialist Party electoral victory in 1933 with the appointment of Hitler as chancellor; to relate through reenacted biblical accounts the age-old historical wandering and suffering of the Jewish people; and to suggest a messianic national hope, enshrined in the still young Zionist enterprise, for the first realizable alternative in nearly 2,000 years to that “eternal road” of helplessness.

As the Chicago-based executive director of Zionist activities for the Midwest region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Weisgal had already experienced the value of public spectacles for advancing the Zionist cause and fostering public awareness of situations affecting world Jewry. He had produced two enormously successful pageants: his All-Chicago Hanukka festival, Israel Reborn (1932); and his lavish Romance of a People, at Jewish Day at the 1933 World’s Fair, “A Century of Progress,” with a cast of more than 6,000. Fresh from that heady success—just as the implications of the Nazi victory in Germany were registering—and convinced of the power of such theater as a vehicle for advocacy and Jewish identity, he envisioned a production of heroic proportions, a musical-dramatic epic that would encompass the basic narrative of the Hebrew Bible in a single evening, implicitly suggesting Zionism’s answer to the perpetual dilemma of the Jewish people’s existence. In view of the dangerous situation for Jews in Germany even in that pre-Holocaust period, Weisgal determined to seize the opportunity to bestir the world, through theater, with a focus on the rich cultural heritage of the Bible as a source common to Christians and Jews.

Insistent on a team of the highest possible artistic profile, Weisgal turned first to one of the most famous directors and fellow Jews on the international scene, Max Reinhardt. Aware of Reinhardt’s departure from Germany in the face of its new policies that expelled Jews from the arts, Weisgal cabled him with the message, "If Hitler doesn't want you, I'll take you!". He also asked Reinhardt to identify the most appropriate playwright and composer, and they settled early on upon New York as the most logical city for the production.

Reinhardt proposed poet and playwright Franz Werfel, a fellow German-Jewish refugee who had already been expelled from the Prussian Academy of Art. To compose the score, he selected Kurt Weill, then in self-imposed exile in Paris. On some levels Werfel was an understandable nominee, not only for his known humanistic leanings and Expressionist poetry, but also because of his acknowledged affinity for biblical subjects. But it was a strange choice in other respects—especially in light of his transparent fascination with Roman Catholicism and, in particular, with its deeper theological mysteries. That orientation would later reverberate in dialectics and frictions with the other principals over the issue of Jewish particularity versus universal perspectives, and it left many aspects of the drama, especially its conclusion, open to conflicting interpretations, for Werfel’s understanding of the Bible was governed more by Christian perceptions than by traditional Judaic sensibilities.

Werfel conceived his play as a modern incarnation of a passion or biblical morality play, which he titled Der Weg der Verheissung (lit., The Road of Promise, although no translation accurately conveys its mystical or religious connotations). That title was obviously connected to one or more of the biblical promises stemming from the eternal covenant with Abraham. For Werfel the universalist, even the messianic promise could have meant assurance of ultimate redemption for all mankind; whereas for Weisgal, and probably for Weill as well, it was unmistakably related to the Zionist vision of national rebirth and, specifically, a return to the land—the “Promised Land.”

PREPARATIONS

Weisgal was at first concerned about Werfel’s skirting of Jewish perspectives. Moreover, reliance upon divine salvation ran counter to the Zionist conviction that waiting and praying for 2,000 years had proved futile. Also, Werfel’s messiah seemed not to be quite the same messiah for whom observant Jews pray daily to lead the Jewish people out of its particular exile and back to its home. And his exile appeared to be a more universal abstract exile of the human spirit, one whose termination could be negotiated on Christian theological terms. Indeed, there is no specific reference anywhere in the play to the modern Zionist movement or its activities at that time in Palestine. But when the production finally materialized, the staging at least implied a dual conclusion—expressing in the words of Psalm 126, mirrored in Weill’s triumphant processional, the eventual deliverance to Zion.

Weisgal cautioned Werfel that the play must be a “Jewish play—that and nothing else,” but thereafter he became wholly preoccupied with massive fund-raising, as well as with all other aspects of production, presentation, and promotion. The eventual Judaic sensibility and character of The Eternal Road is owed largely to Weill’s score, with its considerable quotation of authentic and recognizable Jewish liturgical melodies; to Reinhardt’s biblically grand staging and attention to detail; to Norman Bel Geddes’s sets and costumes; to the choreography of Benjamin Zemach, who had invented a style of ballet and modern dance based on Judaic rituals and folklore; to Ludwig Lewisohn’s English version of the play; and even to the nature of the advance promotion, beginning with the support of Chaim Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and later Israel’s first president. The result was a manifestly Jewish statement that clearly satisfied Weisgal, even if overt Zionist perspectives were left to intuition.

The premiere was originally anticipated for no later than October 1935, but numerous setbacks and postponements, owing in part to the extravagant stage designs as well as to financial and technical problems, resulted in its opening fifteen months later, at the Manhattan Opera House (formerly the Hammerstein Opera House) on Thirty-fourth Street. Meanwhile Lewisohn, a Zionistically as well as religiously inclined author and critic, published his English version under the title The Eternal Road in 1936. A stage adaptation had still to be prepared by William A. Drake, for which some new lyrics were then added by Charles Alan, the pageant’s supervisor. Substantial portions of the original score (estimated by Weill at about one third) were eliminated even before the premiere, and further cuts and changes were instituted thereafter. Unfortunately, we cannot know precisely the identity of all those cuts. The program booklet, issued after opening night, simply states, “Program subject to change without notice.”

THE STORY

The overall dramatic structure consists of a series of flashbacks to biblical events—emanating from a continuous all-night vigil in an unspecified synagogue, where the Jewish community has taken refuge from a raging pogrom. As they await news of their fate—slaughter, intervention, or expulsion—the faithful among the community engage in prayer and biblical deliberations. Others, some there for the first time and in shock at the sudden unprovoked attack, precipitate debates. Werfel’s stage directions specify “a timeless community,” but the characters clearly represent personalities and situations of the modern era in Europe; and they typify such a community’s array of diverse positions and orientations. The only timeless aspect is the perpetual recurrence of persecution throughout Jewish history.

The play is divided between two basic literary devices: prose dialogue and metered verse, a bipartite structure mirrored in Weill’s musical approach. The verse became the lyrics for his biblical scenes; the prose remained as spoken dialogue in the synagogue scenes. The five-tiered stage (actually five stages, a full acre in size) allowed for the simultaneous viewing of the synagogue interior and the biblical reenactments.

Throughout the night in the synagogue, the Rabbi recalls incidents from the Bible in an attempt to sustain the peoples’ courage, reminding them of their biblical heritage and of God’s eternal covenants with them. The stereotypical characters, given no proper names, ponder, question, and debate the meaning of their plight. The regular worshipers, called the Pious Men and Women, have refused to dilute their Judaism to accommodate modernity, and they continue to rely on God’s help and judgment. The Rich Man has attended synagogue only occasionally, substituting financial support for personal religious commitment. He has preferred to downplay his Judaism in the eyes of the non-Jewish world from which he curries favor. The Estranged One only now realizes that he has wrongly assumed that total assimilation and denial of his heritage would forever preclude persecution. His thirteen-year-old son has been shielded from any knowledge of his Jewish heritage or history, and by morning the young man comes to resent that imposed ignorance as he leads the procession into exile. In the Zionist context, he represents the newly idealistic youth who will rebuild the land.

The most troubling character is the Adversary, who represents a type of “devil’s advocacy” in his challenges, which invite some people to reevaluate their positions. He combines cynicism, bitterness, rebellion against God, and—most significantly—a Zionist-oriented refusal to rely any longer on God or His promise of redemption. In that sense he may be the most transparently Zionist element in the play, even though that role is never specified. Other stereotypical characters include the Fanatic; the Timid One; a young man prepared to intermarry; those who have rejected Judaism on rational or scientific grounds; committed Zionists; non-Zionists and anti-Zionists; and the eternal Skeptic.

THE MUSIC

The biblical scenes include choral numbers, solo vocal arias, and ensembles, almost along operatic lines in some cases, more like oratorio movements in others. The Rabbi’s sung biblical passages are often reminiscent of the recitative style in Baroque or classical passions or other oratorios. But actual Hebrew biblical cantillation motifs and archetypes of Hebrew psalmody are discernible there as well, reflecting Weill’s conscious effort to incorporate authentic traditional Judaic elements within neo-Baroque stylization. But even that Western stylization of quasi-metrical recitative, with sustained organ (or organlike) accompaniment, was not without precedent in the modern German Liberale Synagogue, with which Weill was fully familiar. Louis Lewandowski (1821–1894), the most influential composer of the German Synagogue, had introduced it as a synthesis of traditional Jewish and modern Western music; and that style had become a ubiquitous feature among German Jewry. If the Rabbi’s biblical recitations evoke Bach’s St. Matthew Passion—as they do—they could just as easily derive from any number of Lewandowski settings.

Weill determined from the outset to utilize genuine Jewish liturgical material throughout the overall structure, as an integrative binding device. He recalled some from his youth; he also asked his father to provide him with manuscripts of authentic synagogue melodies. In addition, he made a study of the pertinent manuscript collections at the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris.

Some of the oldest known tunes of the Ashkenazi liturgical rite appear throughout the work. These include several from the so-called missinai tune tradition—seasonal leitmotifs that date in most cases to the medieval Rhineland communities and are associated to this day throughout the Ashkenazi world with specific holy days or occassions on the liturgical calendar. The missinai tune for the Festival of Sukkot is heard here in Act III, as the chorus describes the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Another one, assigned to the Festival of Shavuot, is heard in repeated orchestral strains throughout desert scenes and at Sinai.

Later, postmedieval tunes of minhag Ashkenaz (Ashkenazi custom), which became established in western and Central Europe up through the 17th century, appear as well. One is the universal Ashkenazi rendition of the monotheistic pronouncement, sh’ma yisra’el, preceding the biblical readings on the High Holy Days. It is sung by Moses in Act II. Another is an old tune commonly associated with the singing of both Psalm 144 on Sabbath afternoons and of the piyyut (liturgical poem) Omnom ken on Yom Kippur eve. This tune recurs among the excerpts from Acts I, II, and IV.

Act IV, “The Prophets,” was performed as a separate act at most only once—at the premiere. Even then it had been truncated by opening night.

Thereafter, the final scene was most likely appropriated for the end of the third (and final) act. Other parts might later have been incorporated into the third act as well, although there is no existent documentation that can confirm which, if any, such excerpts were so salvaged. Weill’s complete score includes no orchestration of Act IV. Yet Max Reinhardt’s son, Gottfried, who was present at the premiere, refers specifically in his description of that evening to the performance of a fourth act, also implying that parts of it had indeed been eliminated by curtain time; and he reports that the fourth act began well after midnight and ended as late as two a.m., Variety’s report of a pre-midnight ending of the entire pageant notwithstanding. The original fourth act was to cover the final days of Zion before Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians, the destruction of the First Temple, and the expulsion of the Jewish community barricaded in the synagogue—all culminating in the procession of the biblical characters along the “eternal road” that connected the five stages, joined by the procession of the expelled European Jews up the “heavenly staircase” atop the fifth stage.

The concluding music on this recording is drawn from the grand final scene and procession. The messianic voice confirms the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant. As the procession winds up the “heavenly stairs,” a messianic figure—labeled the “Angel of the End of Days” in Lewisohn’s English version—comes down to meet them with a clear assurance of Jewish survival. Perhaps for Weill that procession led, as it certainly did for Weisgal and maybe by then even for Reinhardt, to Palestine, where the messianic voice amounted to the embodiment of the Zionist ideal.

The Eternal Road embraces a dual musical format in which the synagogue scenes are akin to intimate chamber pieces, juxtaposed against the large choral-orchestral aura of the vocal solo and ensemble numbers in the biblical scenes. Comparing it to his earlier works, Weill is said to have described it not only as more varied and heterogeneous, but also as “Mozartean.”

THE PAGEANT

The Eternal Road has been called “the most formidable project any undaunted group of repentant Jewish artists of the highest order has yet undertaken.” By all reliable reports, it was also the largest, most grandiose, and most costly pageant ever mounted in New York—with at least 245 actors, actresses, and singers; 1,772 costumes; 1,000 stage lights; and 26 miles of electrical wiring. The opera house had to be gutted and virtually rebuilt to accommodate the extravagant set designs. Since the synagogue set was placed in a large area dug into the orchestra pit, leaving no room for the 100-piece orchestra, the orchestral score was prerecorded on film sound track and played back each night via loudspeakers against live vocal performance. A small 16-member supplementary ensemble, required by union regulations, played from a soundproof backstage room, from where its music was transmitted electronically.

Despite general critical success and glowing reviews of the music, the production ran for only 153 performances before closing forever. Its financial woes increased as the run progressed, until despite Weisgal’s frantic efforts to save it, even the most basic bills could not be paid. Nor had Weisgal achieved his aim of alerting the world to the dangerous plight of German Jewry. Neither the press nor the public appeared to have picked up on that message, almost out of political avoidance, and the Zionist implications appear to have been ignored altogether.

The final performance was a benefit for Weisgal, who literally had bankrupted himself for the cause. A telegram from Reinhardt proclaimed:

"The light that we lit together in the Manhattan Opera House will shine undimmed in the history of the theater and of the Jewish people."

By: Neil W. Levin

 

Lyrics

FROM ACT I: "THE PATRIARCHS"

Scene 6: Abraham and Isaac

CHOIR OF HEAVENLY HOSTS
Abraham, Abraham,
Stay thy hand, and lift not the knife to slay thy loved one.
Raise up thy child and do him no harm.

DISTANT VOICE
I know now that thou fearest
God and lovest Him,
And therefore thy children the stars shall outnumber,
And they shall triumph against all that hate them.

CHOIR OF HEAVENLY HOSTS
God first created earth and the heavens, then man He fashioned in His own image.
God first created earth and the heavens, then man He fashioned in His own eternal form divine.
God first created earth and the heavens, then man He fashioned in His own form;
In the eternal form of God made He him.

Scene 7: Jacob and the Angel

RABBI
And Jacob reached a certain place and there lay down to pass the night,
For the day was done and the sun had set.
And a dream came,
And behold upon the earth stood a ladder,
And with its top it reached into the heavens.

DISTANT VOICE
Thy foe will triumph, but I am with thee.

JACOB
If thou art with me.

Scene 8: Jacob and Rachel

RABBI
Young was Rachel, and tender with beauty favored.
And Jacob saw and loved her.

JACOB
Like a dream thou comest, Rachel,
Bringing in a vision mild,
Far-off days when first I saw thee
Queen and shepherdess and child.

RACHEL
Rememb’rest thou, beside the waters,
Faithfulness and love we vow’d?
With a kiss that said “Forever”—

JACOB
Rememb’rest thou I wept aloud?

RACHEL
Rememb’rest thou the bitter service
Thou wert made for me to pay?

JACOB
Seven years like days they vanished—

RACHEL
Vanished?

JACOB
Love made each a day.

RACHEL
But that night came—

JACOB
Night accursed wherein, broken and defiled,
Of the payment long awaited
I was by a trick beguiled!

RACHEL
Now dear is my sister to thee.

JACOB
Many sons she bore to me.

RACHEL
Jacob!

JACOB
To thee my heart is given
And to Joseph born of thee.

RACHEL
Dost thou measure what I suffered
Through the hopeless barren years?
When the Lord refused to answer
Thy imploring, and my tears,
Shattered on the earth before thee,
Like a beggar I did lie.
“Give me children,” I besought thee,
“Make me fruitful, or I die.”

JACOB
Still that cry of anguish echoes
Like a torment in my ear.
And I answered thee with harshness,
Speaking cruel words to hear.

RACHEL
Cruel wert thou not, my Jacob;
Tender wert thou, full of light.

JACOB
Healed we are redeemed, O Rachel,
For the Lord beheld our plight.

RACHEL
Once more by the spring I see thee—

JACOB
In my soul its murmurs dwell.

RACHEL
There my heart received its master.
Jacob...Dearest...Stay...Farewell....

JACOB
Must thou go?

RACHEL
Yea, I must leave thee.

JACOB
Is thy sojourn far from me?

RACHEL
It is near that gate of sorrow
Which from sorrow sets us free.

JACOB
Dark the words are that thou speakest.

RACHEL
Though in mystery I dwell,
By command of the Eternal,
I shall love thee Israel.

Scene 16: The Death of Jacob—The Reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers

1ST ANGEL
Arise father Jacob. ’Tis Joseph who calls thee.

JACOB
’Tis night that is calling and death—

2ND ANGEL
It is life, it is life that is calling to Jacob.

JACOB
Inscrutable God, give time that I grasp this.

2ND ANGEL
The moment has come and thy journey begins.

JACOB
My senses are fainting—

1ST ANGEL
Behold, we shall guide thee to thy beloved son.

JOSEPH (addressing his brothers)
Rise up, and suffer remorse no more.
The Lord is my shield.
For [although] your purpose was evil,
But [yet] good was the purpose
He made you to serve.
Not you, [but] He brought me
[As] a slave into Egypt that I might prepare
A home and a faith
For Jacob’s house.
Come closer to me.
My heart hears my father.
Now let us go and meet him.

JACOB
In peace can I die now, because I have seen
Thy face, child of Rachel, [and know] that thou art alive.

End of Act I

FROM ACT II: "MOSES"

Scene 17: Egypt at the time of Moses's birth

RABBI
Joseph died and all his brethren and their whole generation.
And the children of Israel multiplied mightily, and all the land was filled with them.
And after that a Pharaoh came to rule in Egypt who knew not of
Joseph,
And he said to his people:
“Israel multiplies, they have grown mighty,
So come let us take council
Lest they become too strong for us.”
And he set taskmasters over them.

Pharaoh commanded all his servants:
“All firstborn sons of Israel shall ye throw into the Nile.”

CHORUS OF ISRAELITE WOMEN
Woe, woe.

Scene change: Egypt, years later

MIRIAM
The princess beheld in the rushes below
The basket of branches and willows.
And bending her down she heard, tiny and low,
A wailing borne over the billows.
The babe was dainty as woven of light,
The princess had found her heart’s delight.
My brother is high in the councils of Egypt;
My brother is mighty in Egypt.

MOSES
A stranger am I in a stranger’s land,
A stranger among the Egyptians.

MIRIAM
His place in the court is as high as a star;
He sits next to the Sun-god gleaming.
He looks on our burdens as though from afar,
And on Israel’s wounds that are streaming.
He walks with staff and diadem proud
Through his folk that moaning to earth is bowed.
My brother is high in the councils of Egypt;
My brother is mighty in Egypt.

MOSES
A stranger am I in a stranger’s land,
A stranger among the Egyptians.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITE SLAVES
Brother! Brother! Hear us, O Brother!
See us, O Brother!

RABBI
And Moses cut down the Egyptian,
And covered him with sand.

Scene 20: The top of Mount Sinai: Moses Receives God's Commandments

CHOIR OF ANGELS
These are thy symbols,
This is the Ark,
On this the shewbread keep,
These hold the candles,
This is the throne,
These are the tablets,
The Lord’s bestowal on Israel.

Scene change: The valley below; the people dance around a golden calf

LEADER OF THE IDOL WORSHIPERS
This is a god who has led us in triumph,
And from the desert will lead us soon!

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES
This is a god who has led us in triumph,
and from the desert will lead us soon.
So bring him tribute amid rejoicing,
In circling dance and playing of harps.
This is the god who leads us onward,
And from the desert sets us free.
This is a god! This is a god!
This is a homely god,
A god who is like us,
A god of gold, and no god of soul.
So bring him tribute amid rejoicing,
In circling dance and playing of harps.

CHOIR OF ANGELS (addressing Moses)
Now get thee down,
Look on thy folk.
Now get thee down, and see thy folk.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES
This is a god, a god of gold.
So bring him tribute amid rejoicing,
In circling dance and playing of harps.

LEADER OF THE IDOL WORSHIPERS
This is a god who has led us in triumph,
And from the desert will lead us soon.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES
This is a god who has led us in triumph,
and from the desert will lead us soon.
So bring him tribute amid rejoicing,
in circling dance and playing of harps.
This is a god,
This is a homely god,
This is a shining god,
This is a kindly god—

Scene 21: A beam of light appears, through which the voice of God is heard

THE BEAM
Break not in on my wrath.

MOSES
Thy wrath burns hot to destroy the people...

THE BEAM
On thee will I found me another people.

MOSES
On me ... who merits it not? ... that Israel live to fulfill its fate?

THE BEAM
I blot out all those who sin.

MOSES
Then heap all the sins of the people on me,
I bear them alone,
On my head let them be.

THE BEAM
Moses, arise.
For thy sake only will I forgive them.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES
Wandering desert sand, wailing of winds...

Scene 22: Moses addresesses the people

MOSES
Hold, Hold! Joshua!
The doom has been sealed,
Thine eyes shall see the land of my promise.
(addressing the people)
God showed His glory uncovered before you,
His accents eternal came down to your ears.
But ye blasphemed Him, and were rebellious,
Were disobedient and lacking in faith.
And therefore the Lord has ordained that ye wander
Till this generation has all passed away.
Only your children shall know the fulfillment,
They shall cross over and enter proudly
The land I have sworn to give to their seed.
And out of all those who are grown to manhood
Joshua only shall be with them,
None other, none other.
And those who released you from bondage,
They shall not set foot in the country,
Not Aaron, not Miriam,
And I, not I, even I.

RABBI
And Moses uttered the words of God to the people, and they mourned over their sins.
And Moses was a tormented man, more than any other man living.
And these are all the places through which they wandered in the desert,
From the mountain of Zether wandering out they camped in Hareda.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES (hums softly)

Scene 23: Moses gives the commandments to the people/the death of Moses

JOSHUA
Israel! Israel!

MOSES
This, oh my folk, this is the book,
The book of commandment.
sh’ma yisra’el!
adonai eloheinu,
adonai eḥad.
(Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one God.)

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES
Hear O Israel!
The Lord our God is one God.

MOSES
And thou shalt love the Lord, thy God—

RABBI
—with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
and with all thy might!

MOSES
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,

RABBI
—for children are ye of the Lord, your God.

MOSES
For this commandment is not hidden, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, but very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.

RABBI
See, I have set before thee this day, Life and Good, Death and Evil.

MOSES
The mystery belongs to the Lord, our God, but the revelation is ours forevermore.

Take this commandment and keep it holy,
What through me was spoken be yours evermore.
Now go consoled and comforted toward Canaan the blessed.

CHORUS OF ISRAELITES
We halt no more, and we are not afraid,
For the Lord our God shall lead us onward
To the Land, fare ye well,
To the Land of our vision.

MOSES
Give ear, O heavens, for I will speak now,
And hear, O earth, the words that from my lips will issue.
Like rain from heaven shall flow my tidings,
And ev’ry word shall fall like dew upon the grass.
The portion of God is His folk,
And Jacob is His one possession.
In the desert and in the wilderness
Where the wind howls there found He him.
And He encompassed him as might an eagle,
And on His pinions bore Israel home.
Sing loud, my people, for His He made ye.

O Israel, O Israel, His love is thine.
And those that hate thee shall be confounded,
But thou shalt wander on the mountain peaks with God.

My Land, still may I behold thee?

A GENTLE VOICE
Moses, Moses,
Thine eyes have looked on the Promised Land.

RABBI
And Moses died then, the true servant,
And no man knows until this day
The place where his grave is laid.

Scene change: the death of Moses

MOSES
O Lord of the world, how great was the pain
Of turning the stiff-necked people toward Thee.
Just one reward sustained me through all;
Good was the torment, for sweet was the hope
Of beholding once the fulfillment.
See where their armies march, host upon host.
Already their bridges span the wide stream,
And Thou comest now to stay me.
Hast Thou not written in Thine own decrees:
“The laborers’ hire pay thou the same day,
Lest for his reward the heart in him famish?”
And I, who labored on Thy commands,
I go to my sleep unrewarded.

1ST ANGEL
Thy word is as sharp as a glittering sword.

2ND ANGEL
But the word of the Lord is still sharper.

MOSES
Behold, look on me.
Ye weep, ye weep.

1ST AND 2ND ANGELS
Man Moses, the Angel of Death!
Stand thou and tremble.

ANGEL OF DEATH
In my great hand are the souls of all mortals given.

MOSES
But mine is not,
It is too mighty for thee.

ANGEL OF DEATH
Wherein is thy might?

MOSES
In the wonders I did.

ANGEL OF DEATH
The wonders are God’s.
What hast thou performed?

MOSES
I accepted the Law
In the midst of the flames.

ANGEL OF DEATH
That was God’s indulgence.
What hast thou performed?

MOSES
I dared to wage war with God Himself, for His Law’s sake and for His people.

O Lord of the world, strip the Moses from me, and let me go in as the lowliest man
To live in the Land of my fathers.

If that be too much, then make me a beast
Or even a bird, just a bird let me be, which outspreads its wings over Lebanon.

If that be too much, then make me as grass,
The grass which the winds caress
On the banks of the Jordan.

VOICE FROM THE HEAVENLY STAIRCASE
If thou wouldst awake in the world of God,
Must thou not die as a mortal?

MOSES
O rock without turning,
O God without guile.
Thy decisions are just,
Thy judgment true.

1ST ANGEL
Lower thine eyelids and close them at last,
Sleeping, wait for Him who cometh.

2ND ANGEL
Fold on thy breast thy weary arms,
Sleeping, wait for Him who cometh.

CHOIR OF ANGELS
Thine eyelids close,
Oh, fall into sleep and fold on thy breast thy weary arms.

THE VOICE
Soul of Moses, come thou, abandon this form.

SOUL OF MOSES
Dear to me was this form,
I will not depart.

THE VOICE
Soul of Moses, is it more dear than I?

SOUL OF MOSES
Nay Lord, but Thee, but Thee do I love.

CHOIR OF ANGELS
Thy labor is ended, thy task is fulfilled,
Moses—well hast thou served Me, Moses.

THE VOICE
Then come, so that I may kiss thee.

CHOIR OF ANGELS
Come unto Me, come unto Me,
Now thy work is done, and rest with Me.

End of Act II

FROM ACT III: "THE KINGS"

Scene 24: Naomi and Ruth

RABBI
And Naomi cautioned Ruth and said to her:

NAOMI
Thou hast gone with me, Ruth,
All the way from Moab.
Now to thy land and god return again.
No more remember the God we two have worshiped.
Find with thy people contentment again.

RUTH
Nay, where thou goest will I go also,
And I shall dwell wherever thou abidest,
For thy God is my God
And thy folk is my folk.
And shouldst thou die,
Then I would die with thee,
For so thy soul and mine are knit together.
Until the grave then let the bond endure.
Thy God is my God,
And thy faith my faith.
May God reward me happiness or sorrow,
As death alone can tear us two asunder.
And where thou goest, will I go also,
And I shall dwell wherever thou art.

NAOMI
Bless’d be thy faith, my daughter,
And the love which brings thee to the shelter of the Lord.

RUTH
To know and love the Lord is all of life,
To leave Him is bereavement.

Scene change: A harvest field

NAOMI
Yes, Boaz brings the harvest in.

BOAZ (addressing a reaper)
God be with you.
Who is the stranger there?

A REAPER
She came out recently from Moab.

BOAZ
Then it is Ruth, the faithfullest of women.
But woe to any man who dare distress
The gentle lady in the humble dress,
And when she wearies from the sun and heat,
Prepare her food, that she may rest and eat.
And when the day of harvest work is fled,
Bring also vinegar to cool her head.

RABBI
Boaz feasted that evening and was merry, and rejoiced for the harvest.
He went to the threshing floor;
Nearby the grain, he lay and slept.
And then Ruth came softly and lay down near him in the darkness.

Scene change: Boaz and Ruth

RABBI
But suddenly Boaz awoke in the night, and lo, a woman was there.

BOAZ
Who art thou?

RUTH
I am Ruth.

BOAZ
Yes, thou art Ruth.

RUTH
To thy near kinsmen was I wed in youth....

BOAZ
And utterly to the Eternal given....

RUTH
From mine own life and mine own people driven,
I wander widowed in a world forlorn....

BOAZ
And gleanest ears amid the alien corn.
How camest thou that lovely faith to cherish?

RUTH
God wills that not one branch of Jacob perish.
Thus speak thy lips, thine eyes oh let me see.

BOAZ
Oh, any youth, however deep his dreaming,
Could love thee for the beauty from thee streaming.
Why seekest thou an aging man like me?

RUTH
Not I, but God hath placed me here before thee.

BOAZ
Nay child, on bended knee I should adore thee,
That bringest me the highest good so late.

RUTH
Shall I now go?

BOAZ
Ruth, till the morning wait.
Make here thy fragrant bed, and with security
Sleep through the night untroubled for thy purity.
But rise before the early morningtide,
That none may see, nor words be said, to shame thee.
When day burns high, I shall appear to claim thee,
Redeeming thee, and making thee my bride.

Scene change: The wedding

CHORUS OF MEN
To thy word, Boaz, all shall witness be,
No branch or leaf shall die on Jacob’s tree.

CHORUS OF WOMEN
Like Rachel’s and like Sarah’s be thy name,
And be thy seed and theirs of equal fame.

MEN AND WOMEN
Free was thy choice,
Thy faith sought no reward.
Therefore be thou exalted,
Be thou exalted of the Lord.

End of Act III

FROM ACT IV: "THE PROPHETS"

Scene 32: Isaiah and Jeremiah

ISAIAH
Watchman, how far is the night gone?
Watchman, when endeth the darkness?

JEREMIAH
Woe! Ah, woe to Jerusalem.
Woe! Woe!
A city of ruins where jackals make their home.
And death through the windows looks into the palace.
He slaughters the children on streets and on doorsteps.
The corpses lie rotting like dung in the furrows,
Like sheaves in the autumn forgotten by the reaper.
Oh, wherefore, oh wherefore did mother conceive me?
Oh, wherefore did I not die at her breast?

ISAIAH
“Comfort, comfort My people,”
Thus saith the Lord.
One day will the nations of earth arise
Proclaiming we follow in Israel’s ways,
For from Zion alone shall the Law come forth,
And the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And they shall abandon their weapons of war,
And refashion their spears into pruning hooks.

Scene 33: The streets of Jerusalem

RABBI
The anger of God came like thunder upon Judah and Jerusalem.
Do ye not see what they do in the towns of Judah and practice in the streets of Jerusalem?

THE SELLER OF IDOLS
Buy Idols, buy Idols,
Buy baalim, teraphim!
If the big God will not help, it’s time to try a small one.
Buy Idols, buy Idols,
Buy baalim, teraphim!

RABBI (in the character of the prophet Jeremiah)
Then came the word of God commanding me: “Be thou my prophet in the land, and declare to all.”

ONE BOY (mocking Jeremiah)
He’s crazy, he’s crazy, oh look what he’s wearing!

THE SELLER OF IDOLS
Buy Idols, buy Idols,
Buy baalim, teraphim! Buy Idols....

OTHER BOYS
He’s crazy, he’s crazy, oh look what he’s wearing!

JEREMIAH
Oh why hast thou chosen me to be thy mouthpiece?
O Lord, why on me has the burden been laid?
For I am a horror on streets and alleys,
A jeering for children from house to house.
Thy word has become a scandal and laughter.
Oh could I be silent!
But it burns, it burns, it burns.
I cannot be silent.

THE CROWD
The poisonous madman, the dog of a fool!

THE SELLER OF IDOLS
Buy Idols, buy Idols,
Buy baalim, teraphim! Buy Idols....

JEREMIAH
My people! Earliest love of the Lord!
Thou shamest thy marriage, and playest the harlot!

THE CROWD
The poisonous madman, the dog of a fool!

JEREMIAH
Thou drinkest from puddles and filthy ditches.
And turnest from living waters away.

THE SELLER OF IDOLS
Buy Idols, buy Idols,
Buy baalim, teraphim! Buy Idols....

Scene 35: Channiah the false prophet

CHANANIAH
Adorn thee, O Zion, in victory’s robes,
In splendid garments, Jerusalem.
Thus sings Isaiah, and I sing with him,
“Who is like unto thee?”

THE WOMAN (to Chananiah)
Oh seer, unto thee!

CHANANIAH
To the Temple, thou people of beauty and grace.

RABBI
In that same year, in the year which did begin the reign of Zedekiah, spoke [thus] the Prophet Chananiah in the house of the Lord, to all the priests and people.

Scene 36: The mob attacks Jeremiah

THE SELLER OF IDOLS (pointing at Jeremiah)
Beat him and lynch him, the teller of falsehood!
Stone him to death!

CHOIR
Murder him, murder him, stone him to death!

Scene 40: After the destruction of the temple

THE VOICE OF THE MESSIAH
Ye mourners! No judgment which mortals have wrought
Can blot out Israel or bring him to naught.
The promise and covenant given thee are
More lasting than ocean and mountain and star.
Accept even pain, for the things that are ill
Are sent by the Lord to strengthen your will.
Be grateful to live and learn in the flame,
To be pure disciples of God’s love and name.
My people, in dreams hear the sounds that abide,
The voice of the bridegroom, the joy of the bride
I meet you!
Wander, set free from all harm,
Into the kingdom of my strong arm.

Scene change: A trumpet sounds—the soldiers of the pogrom encircle the jews—the congregation leaves the synagogue

CHORUS OF THE SYNAGOGUE CONGREGATION
When the Lord will deliver us to Zion again,
Then shall we be like unto dreamers,
A laughing upon our lips shall arise,
And praise stream forth with our singing.
For the Lord has performed great wonders for us.
Who soweth in fears shall reap in gladness.
In sorrow we strewed the seed in earth,
We gather the sheaves in rejoicing

End of Act IV


 

Credits

Composer: Kurt Weill

Length: 72:17
Genre: Oratorio

Performers: Ted Christopher, Baritone;  Ian DeNolfo, Tenor;  Karl Dent, Tenor;  Ernst Senff Choir, Sigurd Brauns, chorus master;  Constance Hauman, Soprano;  James Maddalena, Baritone;  Barbara Rearick, Mezzo-soprano;  Vale Rideout, Tenor;  Rundfunk-Kinderchor Berlin, Manfred Roost, chorus master;  Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester BerlinGerard Schwarz, Conductor;  Hanna Wollschläger, Mezzo-soprano

Date Recorded: 11/01/2001
Venue: Jesus Christus Kirche (C), Berlin, Germany
Engineer: Eichberg, Martin
Assistant Engineer: Milchmeyer, Sylvia
Assistant Engineer: Nehls, Wolfram
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul

Additional Credits:

Publisher: European American Music
Coproduction with DeutschlandRadio and the ROC Berlin-GmbH

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