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Lustrous Sounds

Kurt Weill's 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny'
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN

 

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was the son of the cantor at a major synagogue in the east German city of Dessau. There, he studied with Albert Bing before going to Berlin to work with Engelbert Humperdinck and Ferrucio Busoni at the Hochschule für Musik. During those early years he earned money to pay for his education by playing in theater orchestras.

Audra McDonald as Jenny Smith in LA Opera's production of Kurt Weill's 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny'. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Audra McDonald as Jenny Smith in LA Opera's production of Kurt Weill's 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny'. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

Unlike many composers of the era, he was concerned with the accessibility of new music and wanted his pieces to be enjoyed by the widest possible audience. He embraced popular music and tended to compose for the musical theater rather than for the opera house.

Patty LuPone as Leocadia Begbick. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Patty LuPone as Leocadia Begbick. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny was written between 1927 and 1929, during the Weimar Republic. It was first seen in Leipzig on 30 March 1930, and at that time the performance was disrupted by Nazi Party members. The following year, Alexander von Zemlinsky conducted it in Berlin, but by 1933 the Nazis had come to power and Weill's work was banned. Mahagonny was not premièred in the United States until 1952 and it was not seen in the United Kingdom until eleven years after that.

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Copyright © 18 March 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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