★★★★☆ - Delicious
Composers Kurt Weill and Arnold Schoenberg aren’t generally paired together as part of an operatic double bill. But the subject matter of this evening presents multiple perspectives on women’s lives, and the cabaret approach to opera links the two pieces for a Delicious Four Star experience for contemporary American audiences.
Both pieces are sung in English — and supertitles make it even easier for audiences to understand what’s being sung. “Seven Deadly Sins” features piano and percussion accompaniment; “Erwartung” is scored for piano and winds.
The Seven Deadly Sins, music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
Like few others, the names Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht are synonymous with the radical politics and cultural innovation of the Weimar Republic. Most famously with their hit Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), but also with numerous other collaborative pieces, the duo represented everything that the Nazi regime declared its enemy. The Jewish Weill and the Marxist Brecht were two of the earliest and most obvious targets of Nazi cultural oppression.
As Darren Weller notes: “A product of this personal and global upheaval, "The Seven Deadly Sins" is a scathing satire of capitalism told through the lens of exile: a family exiled from their dreams by poverty and a daughter exiled from her home as she struggles to lift her family into the middle class…”
Brecht's story became one of the greatest satires of modern music. A young woman -- represented by the practical Anna I (sung by Dina Emerson) and the impulsive, flighty Anna II (danced by Anastasia Weiss) -- leaves her two brothers and parents and sets off on a seven year, seven city jaunt across the United States to make enough money to buy her family a little house in Louisiana. Temptation and torment are constant bedfellows and Anna finds herself torn between her pious past and the thrill of the future.
In each city, Anna II succumbs to one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and has to be reined in by the sensible Anna I, so that their ultimate goal can be achieved. The massive irony is that this goal is by no means virtuous. To make their fortune, men are seduced, robbed, blackmailed and driven to suicide by the two Anna's.
Brecht's message is clear. Capitalist ambition is the greatest Deadly Sin, and ultimately, in a capitalist world, the wages of such sins are