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Summer Opera 2006: Kurt Weill in Lyon

Der Lindberghflug, directed by François Girard, Festival Kurt Weill, Opéra de Lyon, photo by Franchella/StoflethFor the past month or so, the Opéra de Lyon has been mounting a Festival Kurt Weill at theaters in and around France's second city. The schedule included four lesser-known works, including most recently Der Lindberghflug (June 24 to July 4) and Die sieben Todsünden (June 24 to July 4), directed by François Girard. Marie-Aude Roux was there to review the pairing (L'Opéra de Lyon joue et gagne avec le ticket Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht, June 29) for Le Monde (my translation):

By concluding its season with The Flight of Lindbergh and The Seven Deadly Sins, a little-performed diptych by the pair Kurt Weill (music) and Bertolt Brecht (libretto), the Opéra de Lyon has won its bet. These two works are the fruit of a collaboration that, from The Three-Penny Opera (1928) to The Seven Deadly Sins (1933) and passing through The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930), gave birth to six masterpieces in six years. Little ties the two works given in Lyon together. The Flight of Lindbergh is a cantata for tenor, baritone, bass, choir, and orchestra written on the "educational radio play" by Brecht. The Seven Deadly Sins is a ballet written by Weill at the request of the Ballets 1933 created by George Balanchine and Boris Kochno. Weill wanted to work with Cocteau, but the poet turned down the offer. They then had to call on Brecht, in exile in Switzerland: you don't break up a winning team, even if the rose has lost its bloom.

Each work is the story of a voyage. A scientific voyage in the first, that of the American aviator, Charles Lindbergh, the first to cross the Atlantic, in May 1927, at the same time that Nungesser and Coli had just gone down in the sea. The voyage of two twin sisters in the second, Anna I and Anna II, an impressario and a dancer, in search of their fortune by prostituting body and soul to guarantee the social rise of their family. [...]

Die sieben Todsünden, directed by François Girard, Festival Kurt Weill, Opéra de Lyon, photo by Franchella/StoflethDrawn mostly from the Lindbergh's published narrative made while aboard his Spirit of St. Louis, The Flight of Lindbergh was transformed by Brecht into Flight over the Ocean, while the millionaire aviator and Nazi sympathiser taught "Hitler's executioners how to pilot deadly bombers." Coldness, distance: Weill's music, bearing the stamp of Hindemith's icy neoclassicism, denies the man any heroism. In the same way, the score of The Seven Deadly Sins, a grand expressionistic recitative, with its grating quartet of men symbolizing the high-minded and hypocritical family. After the relative stasis of The Flight of Lindbergh, the choreography for The Seven Deadly Sins by the Canadian Marie Chouinard -- seven Annas dancing for seven sins -- is a joy. The witty costumes of Thibault Vancraenenbroeck tend toward red and white: a long tail for Sloth, a short dress and boxing gloves for Wrath, lace for Lust, and Gluttony, a devil with torn clothes and a long tongue.
There was another review by Francis Carlin (Weill Double Bill, Opéra national de Lyon, June 26) for the Financial Times, now unreadable. On the other two pieces -- One Touch of Venus (June 1 to 11) and Der Jasager (June 7 to 10) -- I found only one blog entry, “Signé Vénus” (Paris-Broadway, June 3).


Anonymous said...

Just seen this double bill at the Edinburgh festival. Really impressive staging, and the audience loved the Seven Deadly Sins in particular - lots of cheering and shouting at the end.

Charles T. Downey said...

Anon, thanks for the info about this staging going to Edinburgh. I did not know. Here is a link for anyone else interested. There are video clips you can watch.