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|John Easterlin||Jack O'Brien|
|Mel Ulrich||Bank Account Bill|
|Steven Humes||Alaska Wolf Joe|
|Mark Bailey||Set Decoration/Design|
|Ann Hould-ward||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Dan Moses Schreier||Sound/Sound Designer|
Posted October 1, 2010
Mahagonny is more-or-less an opera - Weill intended it as such, but with the cabaret-style numbers it can also be seen as musical theater. To modern viewers (well, me, at any rate) its construction initially seems unsatisfactory: the first half-hour is very bitty, more a series of tableaux than anything, and scenes are announced over a loudspeaker (every time we cut to it, I expected it to go "The white zone is for loading and unloading only..."). This is all very distancing for the viewer, but that's the whole point - as James Conlon explains in the useful 20-minute interview, we are expected to be intellectually but not emotionally engaged. In fact, though, with a performance as good as Anthony Dean Griffey's as the unfortunate Jimmy and with the orchestra on top form, it's hard not to get caught up as the story unfolds, and Weill knew exactly what he was doing - musically, it all comes together superbly. The plot? Mahagonny is founded as a haven of "contentment" for men, but rules of good behavior bring boredom and, in the face of destruction from a hurricane, the rule is changed to "everything is permitted" (accompanied in this production by explicit reference to Nazi Germany). Mahagonny prospers, but Jimmy McIntyre commits the ultimate crime of not being able to pay the end is remarkably bleak in its view of society: "there's nothing you can do for a dead man". The production is well designed, and clever in its gradual transformation to modern times, reminding us that although Brecht's particular form of anti-capitalist art may seem a little old-fashioned it still is of relevance. Of course if you're coming to this DVD as a lover of musicals rather than opera, the big draws will be Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald both are excellent - in as much as you can get to the heart of a character who might not have one, McDonald manages it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2010
I’ve long been a fan of the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht opera “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.” In particular, I love the mid-1950s recording featuring Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya in the lead role of Jenny. And I’ve always felt that this musical opus—a radical conjunction of opera, jazz, musical theater and political agit-prop—is best served by actors who sing rather than singers who act. Lenya’s unorthodox vocals, simultaneously harsh and tender, fits this work to a T, especially since the musical numbers are closer to popular song than traditional operatic arias. Like Weill and Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera,” “Mahagonny” is a fierce critique of capitalism conveyed in irresistible, jazzy melodies. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I approached this DVD of a live 2007 performance of “Mahagonny” by the Los Angeles Opera starring noted singers Patti Lupone and Audra McDonald. This new production follows the storyline closely, but adopts a chronological progression that brings the action into the present in an attempt to make the work more relevant and accessible to modern audiences. I found this a little jarring at first, then decided it simply provided another level of aesthetic disconnection that’s perfectly in tune with Brecht’s famous alienation effect (i.e., self- consciously stressing the formal artificiality of a work so that audiences can engage more directly with its content). The staging, costumes and sets are impressive, and the performances suitably stylized and impassioned. Lupone is excellent as the amoral brothel owner whose vision of greed inspires the rise of the city of Mahagonny. As the prostitute Jenny, McDonald adroitly blends eroticism, tenderness and mercenary self-interest. The male performers are less vibrant, with the exception of Anthony Dean Griffey as Jimmy, the opera’s sacrificial lamb who pays the ultimate price for having committed the ultimate crime: poverty. The musical arrangements of Weill’s tunes are perhaps the production’s weakest element, lacking the brio and emotional shading necessary to make the numbers truly come alive. And having the songs sung in English, while understandable, lessens the sardonic character of the German version. These criticisms aside, the performance captured on this DVD is an ambitious and welcome variation of this timeworn classic, one whose many positives make up for its few imperfections.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.