Review: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, live streaming, Stephen Joseph Theatre

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

I find that damning indictments of capitalism do not sting quite like they used to. How, then can a director deal with the removal of such a handy target?

First, City of Mahagonny director John Fulljames kept in overindulgence as a theme: sex, with a line of men entering a door with trousers round their ankles; gluttony, with a man eating himself to death on corned beef; injustice, as a Christ-like figure is sentenced to death for failing to pay his bar bill. If the number had gone on to seven I would have suspected it was Sunday morning already.

Trumping them all, however, and bringing us right up to date, we were clobbered with The Environment. How profligate we humans are. For example, we waste our money on tickets for the opera.

As an an opera (music, Curt Weill and libretto, Bertholt Brecht) we were given a stellar cast along with the satire.

Anne Sofie von Otter sang the female lead, Leocadia Begbick, and looked, and sounded very much the malevolent Queen of Mahagonny.

Willard White, last seen by me dominating Parsifal, seemed out of place and disappeared into obscurity, Far more comfortable was Peter Hoare as Fatty, who wasn’t particularly, but made up for it in other ways.

The best things on show, however, were the high tenor voice, occasionally slipping into the counter tenor range, of Kurt Streit and soprano Christine Rice as the cynical Jenny.

The two provided the best balance between conflicting forces, but we really did not see enough of Rice.

The real star of the evening was Es Devlin’s astonishing set. It was a complex container park with mesmerising video projections by Finn Ross. Because the live streaming cameras focus in, I could not see enough of it, and I definitely wanted to see more.

As so often now with Royal Opera House productions, I was left with the wrong kind of questions – why the crucifix in the final scenes? Why run to full length when it would clearly have been better to cut by 20 minutes?

This is an opera, and production, to admire, but I could not say I liked it.

Review: Mike Tilling