Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, released on DVD on the EuroArts label, dominated the 2009 classical Grammy Awards with wins in two top categories: Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album. Recorded at the Los Angeles Opera in February 2007, Mahagonny features Maestro James Conlon leading the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus; the all-star cast includes Anthony Dean Griffey and Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald in a production directed by John Doyle, winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (Sweeney Todd). The English translation used on the DVD is by Michael Feingold. The DVD release followed closely upon the production’s nationwide United States television broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances in December 2007.
Weill collaborated with librettist Bertolt Brecht to create a mythical sin city in Mahagonny, where money rules, lust runs rampant, and the pursuit of pleasure is paramount. Weill’s score crosses over from opera to cabaret to Broadway, incorporating elements of jazz and boisterous music hall numbers. Brecht’s libretto is a scathing satire on greedy capitalism and conventional morality. The work’s premiere in Leipzig in 1930 enraged the Nazis, who banned the opera when they assumed power.
Critical kudos for Maestro Conlon and the Los Angeles Opera cast:
“McDonald is stunning . . . she sings with tremendous power. She knows what the words mean. [Tenor Anthony Dean Griffey] is the perfect Jimmy. He falls for Jenny and he falls hard on his luck with a touching innocence.” (The Los Angeles Times)
“James Conlon showed the right Weill-ish stuff, deftly mixing street smarts and Modernist elegance in the performance.” (Opera Now)
“Broadway firepower lit up Los Angeles Opera’s new mounting of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny . . . Patti LuPone delivered a commanding vocal performance throughout . . . As Jimmy–the big-spending lumber-jack and proto-anarchist who is eventually executed for not paying his whiskey tab–[Anthony Dean] Griffey was a sensation.” (Opera News)
Weill: Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny
James Conlon, conductor; Anthony Dean Griffey, Patti LuPone & Audra McDonald; Fred Vogler, producer (Donnie Ray Albert, John Easterlin, Steven Humes, Mel Ulrich & Robert Wörle; Los Angeles Opera Chorus; Los Angeles Opera Orchestra) EuroArts DVD 2056258.