'Mahagonny' at the Israel Opera

A new production of the Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht almost-anti-opera 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.'

By HELEN KAYE
December 19, 2011 22:02
1 minute read.
'Mahagonny' at the Israel Opera

'Mahagonny' at the Israel Opera 311. (photo credit: Yossi Zvekter)

The Israel Opera presents a new production of the Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht almost-anti-opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, directed by Omri Nitzan and conducted by David Stern.

Calling it a theatrical parable, Nitzan says of Mahagonny that “it’s a metaphor for [a] modern society that worships a new god – the dollar; a raucous, consumerist society... addicted to profit, devoid of humanity and compassion. These characteristics make this opera particularly contemporary.”

Mahagonny is a mythical and lawless sanctuary city established by three fugitive criminals somewhere in the American “Wild West,” a city where anything goes – for a price. Money is God.

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At first people flock there in droves, including four naïve lumberjacks who’ve made a pile from the Alaskan gold-fields.

But prices become too high and dissatisfaction soon takes over.

To make matters worse, an impending hurricane has everybody in a panic. When the hurricane hits another city, the “anything goes” philosophy seems to be justified.

Then when one of the lumberjacks – Jim Mahoney (tenors John Uhlenhopp and Wolfgang Schwaninger) – can’t pay his bar-bill – he’s tried by a kangaroo court and condemned to death for the cardinal sin of insolvency. With his death, Mahagonny falls apart too, and the city ends amid chaos.

Mahagonny satirizes the ornate forms of traditional opera, but Brecht was a committed communist and the opera, which premiered in 1930, also satirizes the evils of capitalism in which – as he saw it, everything, including love, becomes a commodity.

Mahagonny opens at the Israel Opera in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2012.


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