Weil, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny
It has been aeons since I last saw Kurt Weill‘s opera Mahagonny, although I do listen to recordings not infrequently. But a production at the Salzburg Landestheater gave me the chance to revisit it as a stage production. I do remember many years ago finding a staging at the Met compelling, but whether that was a functional staging or just my youthful enthusiasm I am not now sure.
Certainly this evening’s staging was not compelling theater. The staging was contemporary, which was actually fine for this opera, transferring the scene from Marxist commentary on the world in 1930 to 2017’s obsession with new technology and social media. I am not sure that was wrong. It may just be that, on further review, the libretto by Berthold Brecht – although often quite clever within individual numbers – failed as drama. Perhaps it’s all just Marxist gobbledygook after all.
But the Landestheater’s ensemble cast clearly had fun on stage, which always helps. And Weill’s whimsical music is always a pleasure (why I do so enjoy listening to this opera, after all). The Mozarteum Orchestra in the pit, under Adrian Kelly, completely captured the twists of the score, contorting their sounds to match the mood, which they managed to keep spirited, almost mocking Brecht’s moralistic satire. Where this production failed as theater, it succeeded as music thanks to the team of singers, instrumentalists, and conductor who understood exactly what they needed to do.