The CSUSB Opera Theatre’s spring production, the U.S. premier of “The Next Whisky Bar,” will be presented on April 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the university’s Performing Arts Recital Hall. Tickets are on sale on the CSUSB Music Purple Pass webpage.

The Next Whisky Bar” is a musical revue conceived by Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli featuring the music of Kurt Weill and some of his most iconic collaborators, including Bertolt Brecht, Ira Gershwin, Maxwell Anderson and Alan Jay Lerner.

The CSUSB Opera Theatre is now in its 17th season, having produced a rich and diverse repertoire of music theatre works that range from Mozart to Philip Glass and from Missy Mazzoli to Astor Piazzolla. The multiple award-winning ensemble is known for its performances of interesting and challenging works that are rarely performed or are on the cutting edge of 20th and 21st-century opera.

The first known performance of “The Next Whisky Bar” premiered in Canada in 2015 at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, at the internationally renowned Shaw Festival with Turvey, director, and Sportelli, conductor.

The CSUSB Opera Theatre is thrilled to present the U.S. premiere of the work, directed by Stacey Fraser with music direction by Alastair Edmonstone and costume design by Catherine Erickson.

The piece features some of Weill’s most famous songs which members of the audience will undoubtedly recognize (perhaps The Doors adaptation of “Alabama Song” will come to mind, or Bobby Darin’s rendition of “Mack the Knife” from “Threepenny Opera”).

Some lesser-known songs from Weill’s German period are also included, such as the devasting “Nanna’s Lied,” which tells the story of a 16-year-old prostitute, and “The Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife,” a song that documents the end of World War II and the pillaged countries that suffered at the brutality of the Nazis, songs that remained unpublished long after Weill’s death until his muse and widow, Lotte Lenya, made them available to the great Canadian soprano Teresa Stratas. Lenya was spellbound by Strata’s performance in the role of Jenny in “Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny” and told her that, “nobody can sing Weill's music better than you do.” Stratas recorded the songs for Nonesuch in 1981 and The New York Times called it a “landmark” recording that “blended theatrical spunk with classical vocalism.”

Fraser says that this specific recording was her first introduction to Weill’s music when she was an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. “I had finally found music that spoke to me as a classical singer, music that allowed me to use my classical technique but to explore the theatricality of Weill’s music,” she said. “I have been a Weill devotee ever since.”

The CSUSB production has a cabaret feel, although Lenya was known to have stated that Weill “never wrote a single song for the cabaret” and that his music demanded a legitimately trained voice. Fraser has decided to cross that line, which she believes works for this particular production and for this diverse and talented cast who have something interesting and special to share, whether they are coming from a strictly classical technique or more of musical theatre or popular aesthetic. “I think this provides an all-inclusive opportunity for the cast and audience alike,” said Fraser.

The work, based on a loose narrative by Turvey and Sportelli, tells the story of a group of sailors who arrive one night at a dockside bar in Rostock, Germany in 1924. They experience an evening of friendship, loss, and self-discovery while interacting with the prostitutes who work there. The narrative is delivered entirely through the music of Weill and his various collaborators, most notably Brecht.

The university cast features Gilbert Archuletta, Laura Cifuentes, Cassandra Ellis, Raymond Henley, David Henry, Kellen McNeil, Gabriel Orozco and Eve Siliezar, and a professional six-piece band, complete with banjo, accordion, double bass, clarinet, piano and drum kit, in true eclectic CSUSB Opera Theatre style.

The Next Whisky Bar flyer