Performing organizations turned to Weill again and again during the dark days of pandemic shutdowns. As the tradewinds of the performing arts world now begin to blow at full force again they’re filling the sails of Weill’s many ships. The 2022/23 season promises a large and varied selection of new productions, important revivals, and special synergies.
First Time Ever: Three Concurrent Productions of Lady in the Dark
In the eighty years since Lady in the Dark opened on Broadway, there have been any number of important productions in the USA and Europe. But one number never reached is three; that is, three professional productions running concurrently. This season that number will be reached. Fresh off its triumphant premiere in December 2021, the Volksoper Wien production (directed by Matthias Davids and conducted by James Holmes) returns for seven performances in January 2023. By then, Theater Basel and Belgium’s Opera Zuid will have brought out their own new productions.
In Basel, director Martin G. Berger teams with music director Thomas Wise to present the Swiss premiere. Delia Mayer, well-known from her television roles such as Miriam Shapiro in Unorthodox, plays Liza. Conductor David Stern continues his engagement with Lady in the Dark as conductor of the Opera Zuid production, directed by Anna Pool and featuring two Lizas in alternation, Maartje Rammeloo and Alexia Macbeth. The Volksoper and Basel productions both feature Roman Hinze’s German translation, while Opera Zuid presents the English version devised by Chris Hart and Kim H. Kowalke.
Two Remarkable Mahagonnys (and a New One)
New productions of Weill’s classic Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny by two of Europe’s most celebrated stage directors bookended the lockdown period of the pandemic. Both return for the coming season. Ivo van Hove’s production, premiered at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2019, makes its next stop on its journey among coproducers when it opens at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen in September. Belgian soprano Tineke van Ingelgem and Italian tenor Leonardo Capalbo take the lead roles, Jenny Hill and Jimmy Mahoney. The company’s principal conductor, Alejo Pérez, is on the podium. Additional co-production partners: the Metropolitan Opera, Dutch National Opera, and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
Barrie Kosky’s controversial Aufstieg premiered at Komische Oper Berlin late in 2021, the director’s vision emphasizing and expanding on the biblical connotations of the work. The production will issue its daring challenges again during the 2022/23 season. Allan Clayton as Jim Mahoney and Nadja Mchantaf as Jenny Hill return to lead the cast. General Music Director Ainārs Rubiķis conducts.
Complementing these prominent revivals, Theater Bonn premieres a new production of Aufstieg in September as part of its Fokus ’33 series, an exploration of musical theater works from the first third of the twentieth century.
New Production of Lost in the Stars in Annapolis
In October, Annapolis Opera will present the fourth American professional production of Lost in the Stars in recent years. The Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera collaborated with Cape Town Opera on a landmark staging most recently performed in 2016. This production presented a critically acclaimed new ending. Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis followed suit in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In Annapolis, Carl DuPont plays the lead role of Stephen Kumalo. The cast also includes the American professional debut of Ruth Acheampong as Irina. Acheampong earned Second Prize in the 2022 Lotte Lenya Competition. Artistic Director Craig Kier conducts, with Dennis Whitehead Darling directing.
Berlin Upholds its Title as Weill Capital of Europe
Weill went from fledgling to famous in the hothouse environment of Germany’s capital, which remains a mecca for performances of his work. 2021 alone saw important contributions from the Berliner Philharmoniker, Komische Oper Berlin, and the Berliner Ensemble. The city gives no ground in the coming season. Landmark productions continue in repertory, including Barrie Kosky’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at Komische Oper and his Dreigroschenoper at Berliner Ensemble, while the Renaissance-Theater continues its new production of Happy End.
In addition, Komische Oper rolls out two new creations. Building on the success of his oft-performed all-Weill song evening with Katharine Mehrling, Kosky ups the ante with a full staging of an entirely new collection of Weill’s songs titled Und mit Morgen könnt ihr mich…, in which Mehrling sings with an instrumental ensemble playing arrangements of Weill’s German songs created for this program. Not to be outdone, director Tobias Ribitzki brings to life the new children’s opera Tom Sawyer, which boasts a rich buffet of Weill songs arranged by Kai Tietje, and a book by John von Düffel.
Vienna Becomes a “Sixpenny Opera” Town
In September 2021, the oldest continuously operating theater in Vienna, Theater in der Josefstadt, premiered a production of Die Dreigroschenoper, praised for playing against what has come to be seen as standard Brechtian style. The Josefstadt production will return in the new season, but it will have company: a second Dreigroschenoper opening in November from another venerable Vienna institution, albeit one on the cusp of a new era. Volksoper Wien’s new leader Lotte de Beer has entrusted stage director Maurice Lenhard and music director Carlo Goldstein with a production that promises to push even harder against convention. The role of Macheath will be played by a woman with a long and sterling record of Weill performance: Sona MacDonald.
Nina Stemme and HK Gruber Unveil an All-Weill Project
In recent years, conductor HK Gruber has frequently realized his expert Weill interpretations with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. That partnership moves to the next level this season with the premiere of a new Weill project featuring international opera star Nina Stemme. Director Sam Brown will mount testing performances of Der neue Orpheus and The Seven Deadly Sins in a semi-staged environment, sung in English, with a new translation of the former work by David Pountney. A recording and tour are planned for the following season. Weill’s Fantaisie symphonique (Symphony No.2) will round out the program, as well it might; Gruber and the SCO have recently testing recorded the new critical edition of the score, part of the Kurt Weill Edition project.
American Premiere of the Fifteen-Player Version of The Seven Deadly Sins
Premiered in 2019, HK Gruber and Christian Muthspiel’s expert orchestration of The Seven Deadly Sins for fifteen players caught on immediately in Europe and became a particularly welcome option for producers during the pandemic. Now it will enjoy its North American premiere with Madison Opera in February 2023. The performances will be led by John DeMain, a longtime Weill stalwart who recently conducted Lost in the Stars at Glimmerglass and Washington National Opera. The Madison production is directed by Kristine McIntyre with choreography by Lisa Thurell, co-artistic director of Kanopy Dance Theatre. Rehanna Thelwell plays the role of Anna I.
One Touch of Venus: New Production in Graz
The successful premiere in 2019 of a new German translation of One Touch of Venus by Roman Hinze has paved the way for new productions throughout German-speaking territories. Oper Graz picks up the baton with performances beginning in December 2022. Dionne Wudu brings to her portrayal of Venus a wide background of performance in American musical theater in Europe, not to mention fronting the band “Tape Five.” Bashful male lead Rodney is played by Christof Messner, a past award winner in the Lotte Lenya Competition. Magdalena Fuchsberger directs and Marcus Merkel conducts.
Next Stop in the Der Silbersee Rediscovery: Weimar
As Weill’s final work of the Weimar era, Der Silbersee premiered just as the Republic’s last flame flickered out. Amid today’s uncomfortable resonances with that epoch, the work is gathering steam once again. Just before the pandemic, English Touring Opera created a clever, efficient, and highly mobile production, expertly conducted by James Holmes. As lockdown restrictions loosened last year, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen introduced a new staging in collaboration with Opéra national de Lorraine. Directed by Ersan Mondtag, the production went on to win an award from the French Syndicate of Reviewers for “best European coproduction.” Next up is still another new production in January 2023 by Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar, directed by Andrea Moses and conducted by Andreas Wolf. A new critical edition of the work is complete and available for use, soon to be published as part of the Kurt Weill Edition project.
More Inroads for Weill in Latin America
The past decade has seen several significant performances of Weill’s work in Latin America. 2016 represented a particular high point, with Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago and LoveMusik at Paseo La Plaza in Buenos Aires. The Santiago production subsequently traveled to Buenos Aires as well, specifically to the celebrated Teatro Colón, which will host Seven Deadly Sins in 2022/23. Originating at Welsh National Opera, the production is directed by Sophie Hunter and conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig. Stephanie Wake-Edwards plays Anna I, reprising her role in the Royal Opera House production of 2021. Brazil will get its own new Weill production early in the 2022/23 season, a Threepenny Opera at São Paulo’s Theatro São Pedro.
A Welcome Appearance: Der Zar in Frankfurt
Esteemed British opera director Keith Warner, recipient of a 2003 Olivier Award for his Wozzeck at Covent Garden, brings Weill’s one-act Der Zar lässt sich photographieren to Oper Frankfurt in Spring 2023, giving the work a welcome airing in the country where it first became a hit in 1928. Slovenian baritone Domen Križaj plays the title role of Der Zar opposite Juanita Lascarro as the false Angèle, the disguised terrorist intent on his assassination. Yi-Chen Lin conducts.