2: Lotterieagents Tango (1933)
from Der Silbersee: Ein Wintermärchen

text by Georg Kaiser

  • German
  • English

Original Text

Was zahlen Sie für einen Rat,
Wie man sein Geld anlegt mit Nutzen?

Hast du Geld, laß es nicht bei Dir im Sack,
Geh’ zu den Menschen und säe es aus.
Das ist ein Akker, der düngt sich mit Blut,
Da wächst etwas, da kommt etwas heraus,
Das produziert die Krone des Gewinns:
Zins und Zinseszins.

Zuerst kommt das und dann kommt nichts danach.
Für dich schließt sich des Lebens Bilderbuch.
Du schlägst nur pünktlich den Kalender auf
Und liest Termine und du liest genug.
Das kalkuliert die Krone des Gewinns:
Zins und Zinseszins.

Trägst du ein Herz von Fleisch,
Erhärte es zu Stein und wund’re dich nicht,
Wenn es nicht gleich gelingt.
Sei einmal hart vor einer großen Not,
Bald siehst du zu, wenn wer ins Wasser springt;
Das garantiert die Krone des Gewinns:
Zins und Zinseszins.

Bau einen Turm von Quadern um dich,
Du horst nicht wie sie draußen kläglich schrein.
Sie blind, sei taub, erlasse keine Schuld,
Du büßt ja Geld und Geldes Nutzen ein,
Verleugne nie die Krone des Gewinns.
Zins und inseszins.

Darum lerne, wie man’s macht,
Daß einem Zinseszins und Zinsesfreude lacht.

Text by Georg Kaiser


What would you pay for a piece of advice,
on how to invest your money?

If you have money, don’t let it lie in a sack,
go to the people and sow it.
That is a field that is fertilized by blood.
There if you invest, something will grow.
That produces the crown of profits:
Interest and compound interest.

First something comes and then nothing comes.
For you it closes life’s picture book.
You promptly punch the calendar
and you read the schedule.
That calculates the crown of profits:
Interest and compound interest.

If you carry a heart of Flesh,
harden it to stone or don't question
why it is not equally successful.
Be tough before great poverty,
soon you will watch when the spring bursts.
That guarantees the crown of profits:
Interest and compound interest.

Build a tower of stone around yourself,
you won’t hear them outside shrieking.
Be blind, be deaf, permit no guilt,
or you’ll forfeit money and profits.
Never deny the crown of profits:
Interest and compound interest.

Therefore, learn how one makes it,
that is the compound interest laugh.

Translation by James Benjamin Rodgers

A Refusal to be Silent

On February 18th 1933, only weeks after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, Der Silbersee received its premier with three simultaneous performances in Leipzig, Erfurt and Magdeburg. The Nazis, who now had enormous political influence, recognized the works thinly veiled attack on their regime. They made repeated attempts to silence the authors and numerous threats were directed at the key orchestrators of the project. Detlef Sierck, the director of the Leipzig production, recalled:

The Nazis came into power, and one of their town councilors, a man called Hauptmann . . . asked me to drop the play. Otherwise, he told me, something would happen. So I got together with Kaiser, Weill and Neher, since it concerned them personally as well, but we decided to go ahead, feeling the play to be artistically, as well as politically, very important.

One of Weill’s great strengths as a composer was the ability to incorporate remarkable musical diversity within what remains an ultimately cohesive musical framework. This facilitates extremely effective music theatre, providing a vast sound palette with which to represent the dramatic action. Der Silbersee illustrates this perfectly. Moments in the score are deeply rooted in the German Operatic tradition whilst elsewhere Weill draws heavily from German folk music and Kabaret which had become tremendously popular in Berlin.

In one of the most chilling moments in all of Weill’s works, the Lotterieagent sings a provocative tango in which he extols the virtues of compound interest. Its pleasures appear to be overwhelming for this frightening individual.

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