Information: The Well timed Return of the “Rise and Fall of the Metropolis of Mahagonny” 

When IOpera and Melbourne Opera got here collectively to debate the opportunity of mounting a efficiency of Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Elisabeth Hauptmann’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny [Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny] final 12 months, we have been shocked to seek out that it has been over forty years because the work final acquired a full stage efficiency in Australia.

We have been shocked as a result of elsewhere within the operatic world the work has been mounted with growing frequency and to nice success; its city subject material being recognised (particularly after the 2008 monetary disaster and within the shadow of declining confidence in democratic establishments) as chatting with our personal state of affairs with uncanny prescience regardless of the intervening 90 years.

However the truth is, operas like Mahagonny have at all times been extra of an exception than a rule in our operatic tradition. It’s considered one of its oddities that whereas the origins and development of opera mirrored the rise of contemporary city cities throughout Europe, the shape itself has sometimes shied away from explicitly city matters. Because the French author and photographer Maxime de Camp put it again in 1858, though “electrical energy had been found, we nonetheless sing to Bacchus.”

Exceptions are few – we would suppose, maybe, of Verdi’s La Traviata and Puccini’s La Bohème, which each invoke that the majority city of maladies, tuberculosis. However for a quick, extraordinary, interval, the state of affairs was very completely different. Within the heady years of the Weimar Republic in Germany (1919–1933) fashionable metropolis life was lastly introduced onto the operatic stage with all its trademark technological novelties and kaleidoscopic selection. And, because the title may recommend, Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Elisabeth Hauptmann’s Rise and Fall of the Metropolis of Mahagonny is likely one of the biggest examples. Right here, the chief protagonist is the town of the opera’s title.

The origins of Mahagonny lie in 1924 when Brecht wrote and revealed a set of poems that included some which referred to an imaginary metropolis he known as “Mahagonny”,a metropolis characterised by rampant consumerism, and ethical and social decay. Individually, Brecht had lengthy harboured an ambition to write down an operatic libretto, and an opportunity to understand it got here three years later when he was launched to composer Kurt Weill. The 2 males discovered they shared a want to shake up the German stage and sharpen its political relevance and demanding focus. Brecht took the “Mahagonny” poems, together with some new texts supplied by his secretary and lover presently, Elisabeth Hauptman, and stitched them along with a free overarching narrative. Weill, in flip, developed a rating which drew each on his mastery of contemporary compositional strategies and harmonies, alongside references to modern musical types, particularly American jazz and well-liked music. Collectively they created the Mahagonny Songspiel, and over the subsequent three years they expanded and reworked the fabric right into a full-length opera, The Rise and Fall of the Metropolis of Mahagonny.

The work eschews the post-Wagnerian through-composed sound world typical of works by their contemporaries resembling Richard Strauss. As a substitute it provides us a “numbers” opera that not solely speaks to the spirit of “new objectivity” widespread to a variety of inventive exercise presently, but additionally hearkens again to the theatrical method of Mozart, particularly Die Zauberflöte. And like Mozart, Weill incorporates musical types drawn from each excessive artwork and well-liked traditions of his day. Certainly, simply as he had executed with Dreigroschenoper, Weill additionally added to the favored music cannon; a number of numbers from Mahagonny have grow to be well-known in their very own proper (particularly the so-called ‘Alabama Music’).

Taken as a complete, the rating is directly, direct, accessible, and at all times entertaining, however there may be additionally a curious strangeness, a “haunted” character that permeates it. It’s this, above all, that makes it such a robust associate to Brecht’s playful, ironic, and acerbic libretto. By this partnership of textual content and music the opera’s exploration of a few of the social, financial, environmental, and moral points raised by fashionable city life are explored with explicit power and depth.

Partly for that reason the work was focus of violent protests by the rising Nazi Celebration in Germany (who wished to current a imaginative and prescient of contemporary city life characterised by a peverse racial and ethical purity). After the social gathering’s accession to energy in 1933, they eradicated the work from opera homes throughout Germany and drove its creators into exile. It took a number of years after the tip of Phrase Conflict Two for the work to be revived, however as soon as it was, it was instantly recognised as being of not solely nice historic significance but additionally of continuous curiosity and relevance. So, in case you are questioning whether or not opera remains to be a related artwork kind, or in case you are unsure {that a} fashionable opera can actually be critical, difficult, and entertaining, Mahagonny is most positively for you.

Mahagonny will likely be carried out in English utilizing Jeremy Sams’ new translation for The Royal Opera Home, Covent Backyard.


3:00 pm Sunday 1 Might 2022

7:30 pm Tuesday 3 Might 2022

7:30 pm Thursday 5 Might 2022

Athenaeum Theatre, Collins St. Melbourne


Jenny Smith                           Antoinette Halloran

Jimmy McIntyre                    James Egglestone

Trinity Moses                         Christopher Hillier

Leocadia Begbick                   Liane Keegan

Fatty the Pimp                       Robert Macfarlane

Financial institution Account Billy                Christopher Tonkin

Jack O’Brien                           Fraser Findlay

Alaska Wolf Joe                      Darcy Carroll

Toby                                       Alastair Cooper-Golec

The Ladies                                 Amelia Wawrzon, Teresa Ingrilli, Jane Magao, Naomi Flatman, Esther Gresswell and Juel Rigall

Performed by Peter Tregear

Directed by Suzanne Chaundy

Offered by IOpera and Melbourne Opera.



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