Rise & Fall Of The City of Mahagonny

Posted on: 28 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Edinburgh Festival 2008's Opening Concert reviewed.


A tragi-comic satire which blends elements of ragtime, blues, tango and foxtrot is how you could describe Kurt Weill’s cautionary 1930s work Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny which was chosen as the Opening Concert, at the Usher Hall.

In the fictitious city of Mahagonny, modelled on Berlin just before the rise of Nazism, anything goes for those with enough cash. Those with criminal tendencies can feel right at home.

As hedonists flock to wallow in drink, sex and gambling, Jenny the prostitute and Jimmy the lumberjack become lovers. But a failed wager leads them to a court which sets murderers free while the poor are sentenced to death.

Described as an ‘opera for singers’, the variety of musical styles is typical of Weill’s work and these disparate elements are skilfully synthesised into a cohesive whole. However after a sluggish start and the words, by Bertolt Brecht, not always clearly audible, the concert built up momentum and made a powerful impression.

The theme of dystopia which is at the heart of the work was well conveyed by the singers who included Giselle Allen as Jenny, Anthony Dean Griffey as Jim and Alan Opie, standing in for an indisposed Willard White as Trinity Moses, as well as narrator Hannah Gordon, while the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by HK Gruber and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus lent the piece dramatic impetus.

Furthermore it is striking how topical it all seems in our troubled economic times.

By Laurence Green

Web Links

www.eif.co.uk - Edinburgh International Festival website

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