The Seven Deadly Sins/Mahagonny Songspiel review – imaginative and timely double bill

Streamed from the Royal Opera House
A young team bring Weill and Brecht’s satires bang up to date in this double bill exploring social media, binge eating and the crises of femininity and masculinity

“Show me the way to the next whisky bar …” English audiences watching from today might find the words of Alabama Song – the earworm number from Weill and Brecht’s Mahagonny, covered by everyone from Bette Midler to David Bowie – especially timely, but for nearly a century Weill and Brecht’s satires have rarely felt less than topical. In this double bill it is The Seven Deadly Sins that hits its mark most surely, staged by Isabelle Kettle as an up-to-date story of double standards. It is, in many ways, what we’ve been waiting for from the Royal Opera this last pandemic year: a production conceived for filming, harnessing the company’s young artists team and making imaginative use of the theatre.

Weill and Brecht split their protagonist in two. Aspiring star Anna I is Stephanie Wake-Edwards, her fruity mezzo-soprano full of scope; Anna II is Jonadette Carpio, who dances Julia Cheng’s loose-limbed, frenetic choreography vividly. Anna I stays in her dressing room, a brightly lit box, and there’s a lovely moment when we find that the set, designed by Lizzie Clachan, is not oriented as we think. The cameras capture Anna I’s dwindling confidence as she binge-eats and finally washes down pills with whisky; Anna II’s anger rises in counterweight as each attempt to succeed is crushed, whether by a predatory photographer, danced by Thomasin Gülgeç, or by the four male singers who repeatedly undermine Anna in chorus.

Ensemble between the singers and the orchestra, conducted by Michael Papadopoulos, is tight in this, occasionally less so in Mahagonny Songspiel, presented on the Opera House’s grassed-over stalls area as though on a football pitch. The four men and Wake-Edwards return, joined by Kseniia Nikolaieva. Their songs tell a story of decline, but the women at least are already zombie-like, makeup smeared. It feels less focused, but showcases some impressive voices, especially Filipe Manu’s tenor and Blaise Malaba’s bass.

Available on demand (£) until 9 May.

Contributor

Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Seven Deadly Sins/ Mahagonny Songspiel review – wit and style over sleaze
Jette Parker Young Artists successfully meet the challenges of this tough Brecht-Weill double bill head-on

Fiona Maddocks

17, Apr, 2021 @11:30 AM

Article image
The Seven Deadly Sins review – Hollywood highs and Depression lows with uncanny resonances
The expressive force of singer Wallis Giunta and dancer Shelley Eva Haden evoked today’s US in a spirited production of Brecht and Weill’s sung ballet

Rian Evans

23, Nov, 2020 @12:46 PM

Article image
House music: Andrew Clements' watching and listening picks
This week, in our series in which critics tell us what they’ve been listening to at home, Andrew Clements shares Schoenberg, takes a seat at the Royal Opera House, and looks forward to a narcissistic fish

Andrew Clements

15, Jun, 2020 @3:40 PM

Article image
Classical highlights for the week ahead: 20-27 November
Despite lockdown, there’s still plenty of new music-making across the UK available to an online audience. Here’s our pick of next week’s live-streamed and pre-recorded concerts

Andrew Clements

20, Nov, 2020 @6:05 PM

Article image
Classical highlights: concerts and opera to watch in May
As the UK emerges from lockdown and live performances return, we pick this month’s both live and streamed musical highlights

Andrew Clements

30, Apr, 2021 @4:01 PM

Article image
House music: classical critics' watching and listening picks
Each week our critics tell us about the music they’re listening to at home. Today, Flora Willson moves from the Kanneh-Mason family sofa to an empty Wigmore Hall

Flora Willson

08, Jun, 2020 @4:00 PM

Article image
Ariodante review – Paula Murrihy dazzles in Handel's dark drama
In a belated homecoming to Covent Garden, Handel’s gripping opera is played beautifully and sung superbly by a fine cast

Tim Ashley

22, Nov, 2020 @11:37 AM

Article image
The week in classical: Ariodante; Royal Northern Sinfonia; BCMG; HCMF; Bath Mozart festival – review
Handel’s Ariodante makes a captivating return to Covent Garden, while necessity is the mother of invention from Gateshead to uprooted Bath and Huddersfield

Fiona Maddocks

28, Nov, 2020 @12:30 PM

The Threepenny Opera/ The Seven Deadly Sins – review

The Rest Is Noise's Berlin weekend allowed us to hear two of the Brecht-Weill collaboration's greatest pieces in consecutive performances, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

04, Mar, 2013 @6:21 PM

Article image
Opera and classical concerts to watch at home: our critics' picks – week seven
Our critics pick a daily highlight from the treasure trove of online music to help get you through lockdown. This week we bring you slo-mo Pärt, a glorious Figaro and Beethoven’s tenth - yes really

Tim Ashley, Rian Evans, Flora Willson and Fiona Maddocks

04, May, 2020 @4:05 PM