Weill: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

LABELS: EuroArts
WORKS: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
PERFORMER: Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone, Anthony Dean Griffey, Robert Wörle, Donnie Ray Albert; Los Angeles Opera Chorus & Orchestra/James Conlon; dir. John Doyle (Los Angeles, 2007)
With its juxtaposition of opera, cabaret and Brechtian epic drama, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny must be regarded as one of the most provocative music theatre works to have been staged during the Weimar Republic. The present production, given at the Los Angeles Opera in March 2007, represents a valiant attempt to transform what can sometimes be regarded as merely an interesting historical period piece into a vibrant theatrical spectacle. Certainly this impression is largely achieved during the second and third Acts. The backdrop of a mythical 1950s Las Vegas, against which Jimmy, powerfully sung by Anthony Dean Griffey, is cruelly executed for confessing to the heinous ‘crime’ of having run out of money, makes for really compelling viewing. Likewise, the larger-than-life characters of Widow Begbick (Patti LuPone) and Jenny (Audra McDonald) deliver performances of tremendous vibrancy. On the other hand, despite James Conlon’s incisive conducting and a particularly seductive performance of the Alabama Song from McDonald, Act I seems more variable, taking rather too much time to gather real theatrical momentum. The decision to perform the work in English obviously serves the objective of securing greater audience involvement, and the opportunity to watch Conlon talking about the work in a very lucid manner makes for a very attractive bonus. However optional subtitles should have been provided on the DVD since diction isn’t always as clear as it might be. In particular the chorus is guilty of some very sloppy enunciation and rather wooden stage presence which is a considerable drawback in certain crucial scenes. Erik Levi