Friday, November 27, 2015

Flashback Friday: Opera for the masses

Since I've been known to have an affinity for German opera, it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm dipping into the Germanic oveure today. However, rather than Wagner, or even Strauss, I'm looking at an underperformed opera, one that should be performed more often than it is. It's Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht, who more famously brought you "Mack the Knife" from the aptly named Threepenny Opera. (Which is in fact an opera, and not just a part of Bobby Darin's songbook.)

This is one of those pieces I think ought to appear more often; certainly it should be in the crosshairs of opera companies that would rather commission productions that, with few exceptions, won't see the light of day again. Mahagonny was written in 1930, but it's only been in the last 40 years or so that it's gotten anything like significant visibility. (It didn't premiere at the Met until 1979.)

Here's one of the signature moments from the opera: the "Alabama Song" ("Oh, moon af Alabama") from Act I, which is typically performed in English even when the opera is done in German. Valentina Valente is the lead, with Jonathan Webb conducting the orchestra of Teatro Valli.

Of course, you mmight remember the Alabama Song this way instead:

Ah, who says opera can't appeal to the masses?

Originally published March 24, 2011

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