All songs written by Bertolt Brecht, translated by Muldowney.
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Baal is a musical by Bertolt Brecht. It was translated to English by John Willett and adapted for television by Alan Clarke and John Willett. David Bowie played the main character, Baal.
The play is set in the ten years leading up to the war (the 1st), when the german empire was booming, and consists of a string of episodes in the life of an amoral poet singer. 'Baal's hymn' outlined his stoic, almost animal philosophy - never mind viciousness, disease and death, naked or drunkeness. You embrace our world because you know the endless sky is above you.
Baal is taken up by a rich patron of the arts and seduces the man's elegant blonde wife. A middle-class student admires him. He coolly takes the student's fifteen year old girlfriend, who later drowns herself. Two years go by and he picks up a new, more worn and vulnerable mistress whom he publicly humiliates in the filthy cabaret where he is now singing.
Remembering Marie A. which Baal sings to the pub customers is a love song with a difference: the lasting memory is not of the girl nor even of the physical pleasure but of the cloud drifting overhead. The short, crude If a woman's hips are ample is sung in the cabaret as a last disgusting gesture before escaping into the marvelous landscape around. With his mistress and his musician friend Ekart he goes off trampling round the south german countryside, abandoning her by the roadside, when it turns out she's pregnant. When on the road with Ekart he sings The Drowned Girl to convey the young girl's suicide while also suggesting how the human body physically merges with plants, seeds, and water.
After years on the road, this pair of asocial artists come back to the town and to the pub where Baal first sang. Business is flourishing there, but the ex-student and Baal's two discarded women have gone a long way downhill and lost whatever sensitivity and fastidiousness they once had. As Baal again sings - strongly as ever. Ballad Of The Adventurers returns to the defiant, sky seeking vitality of the Hymn, which it links to feelings of home and childhood and Baal's mother who has just died. Ekart starts necking the more sodden of the two women, till in a fit of jealousy Baal kills him.
The story ends with the hunted murderer disappearing into the forests and collapsing with pneumonia in the woodcutters' camp. There he dies on his feet, still reaching for the sky.