5 January 2015 at 5.55pm | Comment on this article
'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is about the economic crisis that we have now, and the crisis of individualism,' says director John Fulljames. 'It's about what sort of society we want; it's our world reflected on the stage.'
In March 2015, The Royal Opera will stage Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht's satirical opera for the first time, starring Anne Sofie von Otter, Willard White and Christine Rice. Mark Wigglesworth will conduct a work that's as relevant in 2015 as it was at the opera's 1930 premiere.
'The opera tells the story of the founding of a city, its uncontrolled, excessive growth into a city of consumption and pleasure; and then its decay, gridlock, and inability to progress because it's become a society built on gratification and consumption,' John says.
'Brecht and Weill - writing in the 1920s - were writing at a time of great economic change, in an era in which Germany was going through a period of hyperinflation. Clearly there are parallels with the economic crisis which we find ourselves in at the start of the 21st century. But as well as there being parallels with the West - which feels like it's reached the gridlock which Weill and Brecht were writing about - in the 21st century we see the beginnings of the story in somewhere like China. It's as if the rise and fall has begun again, in a new cycle where China is Act I and America or Britain is Act III.'
Weill's score for The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny draws upon diverse influences, from the popular songs of the 1920s and the tradition of the music hall, to film music:
'What we end up with is a score that's made up of individual numbers,' says John. 'Some of those songs are known today more widely - 'Alabama Song' is a good example of a Kurt Weill song that's been sung by many non-operatic artists [including The Doors and David Bowie], as well as opera singers.'
To see more films like this, subscribe to the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:
The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Hamish and Sophie Forsyth, Richard and Ginny Salter, The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, NY and The Royal Opera Circle.