Great production of an unusual if interesting contemporary opera
I love opera, especially the work of Verdi and Puccini. Having been so thrilled with the Met production of The Ghosts of Versailles, I was recommended The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, another contemporary opera, this time by Kurt Weill.
And I sat down to watch this 1979 Met production, as I very much like Teresa Stratas, Cornell MacNeil and Paul Plishka, and mostly I have been consistently impressed by the many Met productions I've watched.
The opera isn't really a favourite, but I am glad I heard it. The music is interesting and memorable, but in a sense it is a style I just appreciate than love, I am not sure whether it's because I am more familiar with the works of Verdi, Mozart and Puccini or whether I am not completely receptive to Weill's music.
I very much like the story though. Its political themes, how it satirises operas and its structure are very unique and the events are compelling enough.
This is a great production. The music is performed with musicality, and James Levine as ever does a solid job conducting and as always you can tell that he is feeling the music through his bones, although I have heard many criticisms against his speeds(which I don't always agree with but perhaps are justified) that is my idea of a great conductor.
The costumes and sets are not spectacular but they are at least appealing and have the feel of a contemporary opera. Video directing and sound are very good, and John Dexter's staging has many moments of interest, my favourite being the boxing match between MacNeil and Plishka.
The performances are excellent. Teresa Stratas is superb, she puts her lovely lyric voice to great use and shows strong acting. Richard Cassilly is more than an ideal match as Jimmy with his voice more suited to this role than a role like Tannhauser, the now regrettably late Cornell MacNeil a superb Moses giving one of his better performances vocally since adopting a more open sound quality to his voice, Ragnor Ulfung a solid Fatty and Paul Plishka perfect as Joe. My favourite performance of the production is that of Astrid Varnay as Begbick, who in a sense dominates the opera, Varnay with her strong voice and compelling presence is extremely effective.
All in all, great and very interesting production. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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