“Barbara Song” – Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weil.

Its my friend Maria’s birthday, and I heard her sing this for the first time a few weeks ago. We were all drinking, but she wasn’t and she left before the evening ended by me letting my tongue fall into the mouth of a boy and a girl in rapid succession. Of all the versions I have heard, I love Marias the best, maybe because the evening was one that should have been scripted by Weil, maybe because she has this crystalline soprano, one that you would think of as pure, if you didn’t notice the flint at its heart, maybe because from Lotte Lenya to Ute Lemper to Marriane Faithful, the expectations of this song have been a Camels and Glenfiddich growl. (I told her she had to start drinking and smoking to sing this sort of thing well, but I don’t believe it and was mocking the lieder queens who expect this.) But mostly because she does this well,with wide wide eyed wonder and tenuous hope, layered over a bedrock of cynicism and fear. Its hard to pull off, because you don’t want to sound like a slut, or an ingenue or a hack who is doing it for sordid reasons.

I am going to buy her a copy of Lenya’s theatre songs before the party, because greedily I want to be in bars when she learns the Alabama song, In cabarets when she learns the September song and in Concert Halls to weep when she sings Mack the Knife.

I hope she listens to it, not as the definitive version but as a way to enter the world of cabaret, but really thats selfish. She will sing what she needs to, and thats alright by me.