Classical and Opera Features

Preview: Royal Opera stages its first-ever production of 20th century masterpiece banned by Nazis



slide-imageOn March 10th the Royal Opera House will present Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, arguably one of the seminal works of the 20th century: the work’s premiere ended in a riot, and although it had some success during the 1930s, it was banned as soon as the Nazi regime came to power. It’s only in recent years that it has been recognized as an outstanding piece, and in March and April you’ll be able to judge for yourself: tickets are priced from £5 for the Amphitheatre, with many excellent ones at £17-£26 in the Stalls Circle and Balcony (at the time of writing) – the ideal opportunity to sample Covent Garden for those who have yet to venture there.

This opera might best be described as a vicious satire on consumerism, and its biting wit should come across well in Jeremy Sams’ new English translation. The story concerns three criminals who have nowhere to run, so they found a city dedicated to pleasure and profit, and which attracts the disillusioned and embittered as well as the destitute. After financial crises and what seems like a miraculous escape from a typhoon the inhabitants abandon themselves to debauchery: when one of them is arrested and executed for various crimes including lack of money, the city explodes into protests.

The Music Director Designate of the English National Opera, Mark Wigglesworth, conducts a starry cast including Anne Sofie von Otter, Willard White, Christine Rice and Kurt Streit, and John Fulljames directs what is sure to be a much talked about production. If you can’t get to the opera house, you can still experience the work on the screen, since on Wednesday April 1st it will be relayed ‘live’ to more than 1,500 cinemas in over 40 countries as part of the Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season.

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