The Threepenny Opera/ The Seven Deadly Sins – review

Royal Festival Hall/Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

The Brecht-Weill collaboration takes pride of place in any examination of Weimar Republic music theatre, and The Rest Is Noise's Berlin weekend allowed us to hear two of their greatest pieces on consecutive nights in performances that strongly emphasised their cross-genre impact and influence.

With a band drawn from the London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski conducted The Threepenny Opera in a simple but edgy semi-staging by Ted Huffman that allowed Brecht's commentaries on monetarism, racism and sexuality to hit home with tremendous force. At Jurowski's insistence, the cast represented a spectrum of singers from opera to cabaret. So coloratura soprano and contemporary music singer Alison Bell, slinky cabaret diseuse Meow Meow, and bel canto soprano Gabriela Istoc were the women fighting for the affections of Mark Padmore's brutally charismatic Macheath. John Tomlinson and Felicity Palmer were venality incarnate as the Peachums, while the terrific German singer-actor Max Hopp made a wonderfully raffish Narrator, and sang Mack the Knife as one born to it.

The Seven Deadly Sins, meanwhile, was performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra under André de Ridder. US singer-songwriter Shara Worden played Anna, bringing a fragile vulnerability to Brecht and Weill's portrait of a woman whose humanity is gradually eroded by her desire to make a fortune. A quartet from Synergy Vocals formed the avaricious family who conspire in her ruin. As an encore, Worden offered her own We Added It Up, in which Weill's influence is strongly apparent. De Ridder and the BBCCO also gave us Schoenberg's Accompaniment to a Film Scene, prophetic of the rise of Nazism, and Hindemith's Mathis der Maler Symphony, which fell foul of the Third Reich authorities at its premiere in 1934 – intensely felt performances, beautifully played.

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Contributor

Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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