1 April 2015 | TheLittleSongbird
Interesting if flawed production, with fabulous musical values
As someone who likes Teresa Stratas and appreciates The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and especially Street Scene, both also composed by Kurt Weill, they were reasons enough to make me check out this production of The Seven Deadly Sins.
The production is a long way from perfect(my opinion), but it is an interesting one. And if you like The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and Street Scene you are likely to like The Seven Deadly Sins, the cleverly done story, Weill's dynamic and dramatically strong music and Brecht's witty libretto are enough to make the opera just as good and deserving of being better known. My only real complaint of the opera actually is that it did feel like it's a little too short.
Visually, it's atmospheric without being austere. The different colour schemes and lighting for each of the deadly sins were a clever touch that came over very strikingly. The same happens for the costumes in colour and style and that also came over well. The production is fabulous musically, with hauntingly powerful orchestral playing, with a lot of great beauty and atmosphere, and Kent Nagano's very authoritative conducting that gives the storytelling life but at the same time accommodating the performers. Teresa Stratas is superb, no surprise as she is/was one of the leading Weill interpreters, her acting is riveting and while she's not at her best vocally the voice is still very listenable and very musically used, also having no trouble being heard. The rest of the performances while not quite up to her level are just as worthy, with particularly the role of Anna II being expressively danced and affectingly acted by Nora Kimball.
For all those many merits, the production is badly let down by some of the stage direction and the video directing. Peter Sellars' stage directing(which has always been an acquired taste) has its compelling moments but there's too many parts where it gets static and indulgent as well as resorting to excess that adds absolutely nothing to what's going on and just succeeds in confusing things. The video directing is sadly awful also, it's far too rapid and frenetic and almost low-budget music video-like, if it had slowed down and been more focused that would have allowed us to engage more with what was going on. There was also some video footage that distracted rather than enhanced and again was unnecessary.
In conclusion, musically the production is fabulous but as a production it's problematic though with a lot of interest value. Not a must see but recommended. 7/10 Bethany Cox