Argentina Weill, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra / David Syrus (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 29.8.2017. (JSJ)
Leokadja Begbick – Iris Vermillion
Jenny – Nicola Beller-Carbone
Jim Mahoney – Nikolai Schukoff
Fatty – Pedro Espinosa
Moses – Hernán Iturralde
Jack – Gonzalo Araya
Bill – Luciano Garay
Joe – Iván García
Direction – Marcelo Lombardero
Sets – Diego Siliano
Costumes – Luciana Gutman
Lighting – José Luis Fiorruccio
Chorus – Miguel Martínez
Choreography – Ignacio González Cano
Kurt Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny – or as it is perhaps better known in its English form, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny – was first presented at the Teatro Colón in 1987. This new production, according to the programme, is in homage to the 30th anniversary of that event, which was also the Argentine premiere of the work.
The work, to a libretto by Bertolt Brecht, is classified as a political satire, but ultimately can be seen as a tale of excess involving money, alcohol and sex, which as these inevitably do, ends in tragedy.
This new production by Marcelo Lombardero – a co-production with the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, where it was presented last year, and the Teatro Mayor in Bogotá – updates the work to a period close to the present when smoking still appears to be de rigeur but before the mobiecame ubiquitous.
The work starts with a projection of a vehicle (viewing from the interior) speeding along a curved road at night-time – and then the curtain opens to see a car smashed up against a tree, its front wheels still spinning and a cloud of smoke rising as the occupants emerge dazed in the aftermath of the accident.
Shocking in its reality, it sets the scene for a no holds barred, sexually charged offering, that, with a stage extension between the orchestra and audience, draws one into the drama.
An outstanding cast was another factor with a no nonsense ‘Madam’, aka Leokadja Begbick from Iris Vermillion, a noted Straussian in recent local productions, a seductive and colourful Jenny from Nicola Beller-Carbone, whose moves even included a Sharon Stone/’Basin Instinct’ moment for Jimmy, ebulliently played by Austrian tenor Nikolai Schukoff.
The respective henchmen/sidekicks – Fatty and Moses of Begbick and Bill, Jack and Joe of Jimmy – were all convincing and especially memorable were Hernán Iturralde’s (Moses) despatch of Jimmy and Gonzalo Araya’s (Jack) demise gorging on a plate of spaghetti.
Good work too from the chorus and especially the women of Mahagonny.
And holding it all together on the podium, David Syrus brought a tension and edge that matched the drama.
In many cases the ‘modern’ and ‘in your face’ of this day and age appears to be more about making a statement than adding artistic value but here it works well in a work that is as valid now as when it was written, if not more so given the excesses of modern society.
Jonathan Spencer Jones