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The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
Weill's score layers classical opera elements and lush melodies with modernist elements inspired by Stravinsky and his school. It includes the famous melodic "Moon of Alabama", memorably delivered by the rich voice of Audra McDonald. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that a second lyric aria yearns for "Benares", as though these far-away places with exotic names embody promises never fulfilled in the stark materialistic City of Mahagonny. The haunting "Crane's Duet", a strange poignant song about two who would like to learn what it means to be intimate in a more than physical way, is sung by McDonald and the devastating Anthony Dean Griffey as her lover Jimmy McIntyre.
The simple plot focuses on Jimmy and his fellow lumberjacks who thought the seven years of sweat and strain in Alaska that made them rich would also make them happy in Mahagonny with its Hotel for Rich Men. They learn not only that money doesn't buy happiness but that "freedom brings no freedom." The sharp apt translation by Michael Feingold makes even the clichéd elements of Brecht's libretto piercing. Brecht vividly demonstrates that once you lose your money, you're nobody in the glitzy world of Mahagonny and his confrontational style, intuitively interpreted by director John Doyle, makes each audience member believe it could be true in any world.
Conductor James Conlon finds both the lushness and the dissonance of Weill's remarkable score which improves with hearing. The strong operatic voices in the cast include the splendid tenor Anthony Dean Griffey whose dazed naive Jimmy McIntyre doesn't know how to buy peace with the money he's made; a searing performance from sensuous voluptuous Audra McDonald of the rich mellow voice; the amazing bass of Mel Ulrich as Bank Account Bill; Donnie Ray Albert as Trinity Moses and Robert Worle as Fatty the Bookkeeper who bookend Patti LuPone as Leocadia Begbick. LuPone, the only Broadway musical as opposed to operatic voice in the cast, was a little shrill at the performance viewed but carved out a characterization dripping with vim and venom.
Ann Hould-Ward's stunning vivid costumes are influenced by Roaring 20s styles with a through-the-looking glass feel from the City of Mahagonny. The opera is composed in short scenes that give it a cinematic feel, another tribute to the new century that spawned Brecht and Weill.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater