Yesterday, I was driving down I-90 and listening to my CD which was a performance of The Threepenny Opera, featuring Lotte Lenya in the major singing role. With a libretto by Bertold Brecht and a musical score by Kurt Weill, this remarkable piece of music has been performed thousands of times and recorded no doubt God knows how many times since it first premiered in a Berlin theater in 1928.
This play set to music is a Socialist critique of capitalism, which is why both Brecht and Weill would leave Germany after Hitler came to power in 1933. But the fact that the premiere took place in Berlin should remind us that this city was considered to be the cultural center of Western Europe during the first several decades following World War I, and by the time Brecht, Weill and Lenya went into exile (in the United States) the work had been translated into 18 languages and performed more than 10,000 times.
So, I’m driving down the Interstate on my way to a meeting yesterday and I’m listening to this CD, and I’m also thinking about what everyone’s thinking about these days, namely, Donald Trump.
Will Trump somehow avoid being convicted and sent off to jail? Will Trump become the GOP nominee even if he’s sitting in a cell in Butner or Otisville? Most of all, if Trump gets elected next year will he try to impose some kind of Fascist regime after he becomes #47 in 2025?
As I was musing through those questions with the music and words from The Threepenny Opera floating through my head, all of a sudden another question popped up and hit me like a veritable ton of bricks.
And the question goes like this: How did a society which created and fostered a cultural and social milieu vibrant enough to be the fount for the energies and efforts of artists like Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill also produce a monster like Adolph Hitler at exactly the same time? After all, it was less than five years following the first public performance of The Threepenny Opera that Hitler became Chancellor and head of the government in March 1933.
And by the way, although Hitler quickly dismantled the democratic organs of political authority once he was named Head of State, his ascendance to that office was affected through a completely legal election in which his…