Mahagonny: Wiener Staatsoper (Dennis Russell Davies) (1998)
3.6 of 5 from 45 ratings
Kurt Weill's complex score reigns supreme in Peter Zadek's 1998 Salzburg Festival staging of 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny', the collaboration with Brecht which became a target for Nazi insurrection on its 1930 premiere. The city itself is suggested by the attitudes and personalities of the singers rather than by Richard Peduzzi's Spartan sets. It's bleak stuff in many ways, not least in its vision of the human state: squaring up to corruption is a lonely and fatal business. But thanks to Weill's musical eclecticism, which ranges from barbershop to lieder, there are moments of intense beauty, not least in the duets between lumberjack Jimmy Mahoney and prostitute Jenny. There are, too, flashes which anticipate Weill's American future on Broadway. The lilting "Alabama Song", that gift to every would-be cabaret artist in search of a Lotte Lenya moment, works wonderfully as an ensemble piece. Despite occasional inaudibility, the singing is often breathtaking. Gwyneth Jones is a majestic Begbick, Catherine Maltifano's voluptuous and earthy Jenny also has a rarely seen sweetness and Jerry Hadley's Jimmy Mahoney is ultimately almost unbearably moving. Food for thought, indeed.