Weill: Youkali / Lost in the stars
Kurt Weill originally wrote the musical piece Youkali during his exile in Paris as an interlude to the French play Marie Galante (1934) by Jacques Deval. The melancholic and gloomy atmosphere of the music inspired Roger Bertrand (alias Roger Fernay) to write the text Youkali for this tango habanera the following year. It describes an idyllic island “almost at the end of the world”, and the syncopated rhythm at the beginning of the accompaniment reflects the emigrant’s wanderings and uncertainty about his awaiting fate. The monotone chorus suggests an ideal that does not exist, as the island of Youkali ultimately turns out to be a dream.
Lost in the Stars
The song Lost in the Stars (1943) was written in the US, and became a hit that has been recorded by a range of artists, from Mahalia Jackson to Nils Landgren. The title also gave name to a musical by Kurt Weill, which came out in 1949 and was based on a short story by Alan Paton. It is a social realist depiction of poor black workers in South Africa’s gold mines, depicting a murder and the emotional crisis that later befalls the perpetrator’s father. “Once God held all the stars in his hand… and they ran through his fingers like grains of sand, and one little star fell alone”. God sought and found the little lost star and “promised that it would never be lost again”, a promise that the interpreter questions and doubts.
Conductor Barbara Hannigan leads the orchestra in both pieces.