(photo credit: Courtesy of Yossi Zveker)
Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Rise and Fall of the City Mahagonny,
performed by the Israeli Opera, conveys the message that the most severe crime,
deserving the death penalty, is poverty. It suggests this attitude has not
changed since 1930s Europe but merely gotten worse.
Director Omri Nitzan
and set designer Michael Kramenko’s obsession with video art, innovative and
modern several decades ago, was partly amusing, partly irritating and partly
confusing. David Stern, first and foremost an orchestra conductor, payed little
to no attention to the singers, and did not use his authority to restrain the
orchestra’s volume in order not to overshadow the voices.
Most of the
singers’ enunciation was unintelligible, making it difficult to understand the
text without resorting to the screened translation or indeed distinguish whether
the half-open-mouthed language was German, English or Gibberish. Almost all the
singers recited or sung their roles plainly, theatrically and without nuance,
like routine opera arias, not light, musical-style hit songs.
no trace of Weill’s and Brecht’s biting irony and makebelieve nonchalance, their
main characteristics. Jenny (Neomi Nadelmann) sounded like a heavyset dramatic
soprano, instead of a lighthearted, soubrette-type chanteuse. Jim
(Wolfgang Schwaninger) was pathetic before his execution, evincing none of the
witty alienation so typical of Weill. The court scene, mercifully, provided some
comic relief, highlighting the satirical aspect of the proceedings.
those who might have missed it, the relevance of the 1930s-era social protest to
the contemporary local scene was bluntly emphasized at the end.