The Wild, Weill West
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 09/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Right from the get go Dennis Russell Davies has the orchestra playing with
a fine "Weill" sound - clean and intense with impressive brass playing as
the strings chug-chug away. The very opening bars of Mahagonny (especially
when played this well) can really get me going on the ride.
Immediately we're introduced to a hot, doe-eyed announcer who saunters on
and off before each scene and before we know it we're being introduced to
our three fugitives from justice. As Trinity Moses, the pinstriped Wilbur
Pauley is long and lean and looks just "too cool" sporting the sharpest
sideburns in the biz. R. Cornelius Smith is his complete physical opposite
and together they make a great comedy team while pouring out vocal gold.
Dame Gwyneth appears with her trademark hair and looking hard as nails.
Vocally, her Begbick is worn and the wobble is now so large as to have
become a thing of wonder. Still, she sings with great conviction and turns
in a gutzy, biting, scathing and memorable performance.
Peter Zadek's production is nothing short of astounding with sets from
Richard Peduzzi and lurid costuming by Norma Moriceau. The set, beginning
as blank walls colored only by lighting, grows with each scene reaching its
apotheosis as a 30's Holly set of a Babylon movie complete with life sized
statutes of elephants and is most impressive.
Zadek trusts his actors and they in turn seem to trust him right back all
giving inspired performances, down to tiny touches that make all the
difference. An example: Begbick, kicking back into relaxation states how
the new city will be all relaxation, no work for anyone. Yet, as she
mentions this the reality is Moses and Fatty are sweating their asses off
hauling her cargo with all the zeal of a prison work release hand assigned
to paint a factory or clean out a pig sty. Irony, lies, contradiction and
self deception all go hand in hand in Mahagonny.
As Jenny, Catherine Malfitano's wide vibrato nearly puts her in Dame
Gwyneth's camp, but like Dame Gwyneth here is a consummate operatic
actress, investing everything with passion and she fills the role of Jenny
from teeth to toes.
The quartet of ax-swinging lumberjacks invests the opera with even
more "real" fun. Weill and Brecht have created this foursome with such
craft and inspiration it's impossible not to fall in love with these guys.
One also can't help fearing for their wellbeing as Begbick welcomes them,
trapping them into her spider web Mahagonny.
Marco complains about the ugly voice of Jerry Hadley. I can't agree. It's
not a "beautiful" voice, but here is a characterization and development of
a role which succeeds on every other level. I've never been a big fan of
the tenor's, but he gives such a gutsy, mindboggling performance and he
really SINGS the role as opposed to some of the Herodes-style barking I've
heard passing for Jimmys in the past. The voice sounds free and sizeable
and is deployed with an abandon I'm not used to hearing from this singer.
Hadley also gives a physical performance that is hard to believe: jumping
from table to table, flinging furniture, dancing with his axe, falling from
platforms, slapping whores' asses and dancing his very big heart out. I
had to make sure it was Hadley!
The scene where Jimmy tries to leae Mahagonny is a most powerful one. The
boys in peppermint stripes the scene turns into a gay-90's barbershop
quartet before Jimmy jumps into the pit and into the aisles with enough
energy I wouldn't be surprised if he had callbacks for Cabaret . . . or
Former lister (or is he?) Udo Holdorf is hilarious as Jakob Schmidt,
receiving encouragement and cheers as he glutonously prepares to eat his
3rd calf in a row before. The cheers continue until, meat hanging out of
his mouth, poor Jakob . . . well, you know . . .
There is much to enjoy here: the boxing match (gruwesome and hilarious)
between Trinity and Joe; "Pirate Jenny" with Malfitano atop the billiards
table (some interesting symbolism here), a touching "Crane Duet" and Dale
Duesing's performance as Pennybank Bill showing why he's one of the very
best of American Singers - taking a rather small, ensemble role and
creating a genuinely memorable character that touches the heart.
I'm not sure what other videos/DVDs are available of Mahagonny . . . but
they'll have to go a long way before they can touch this one.
Up close and Terrible
William D. Clynre | 02/17/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is about the worst 'video' of a live stage production I have seen in years. The singing is fine enough, the costumes and set design are very fine enough (what we actually see of them!) Mr. Brian Large who has a long list of Directing for Video numerous stage productions seems to here, at least, take no regard to what is actually happening on the stage. He and his camera crew are obsessed with capturing every singer in full head and shoulder CLOSE UP. No matter what drama is going on the vast stage of the salzburg theater, he is showing every singer in continuous in- your- face Close Ups. (very often the cameras are not even catching up to the moving actors....but you see them moving out of the frame, or missing the target all together)
He even treats us to loving shots of the BACKS of the heads of the chorus !!!
This is VERY TOUGH GOING.... Sad. It won't help to turn the picture OFF and just listen. Several singers sound very off-mic. Oh, and you have to like hearing them stomp around the stage, cause the floor mics seem to work more than fine for the singers foot steps. So, If you are looking for that 'You Are There' experience of being in the expansive, dramatic,Salzburg and hearing a huge orchestra ...... you are out of luck here. Don't buy it.
I cant even watch the second half of this . Totally ruined by Brian Large. How does this man find work??? (To try and convey the amount of damage that his camera work has done to this production.........here is his name in CLose Up
for this review: " N L ""
A work that Weill-lovers will enjoy
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 07/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Kurt Weill's opera shows all the worst about humanity: greed, exploitation and an absence of caring. Its message is "you can't buy happiness," and "carpe diem."
The performance is quite good. Jerry Hadley simply bursts with energy as Jimmy Mahoney--he's just right, and keeps the story flowing for the entire production. Catherine Malfitano does a masterful job of singing and acting the role of Jenny Smith. Unfortunately, as other reviewers have noted, the camera just comes in too close, making us wish she had recorded this a decade or so earlier. With my deep appreciation for her acting and singing talents, I really hate to say that, but Jenny is supposed to be a young girl, and this is just pushing it too far.
You will absolutely devour the scene of "Fatty" as he devours meat and more meat to illustrate the human trait of gluttony for more and more out of life. Roy Cornelius Smith has set the benchmark for this role.
Dennis Russell Davies keeps the pep and energy going constantly, to make this a typical "always-on-the-move" Weil performance.
My only caution (and it will sound simplistic to some) is be sure you like the work of Kurt Weill before you watch this. The nudity may offend some but it is appropriate for this well-done Weill."
....for if the version with Teresa Stratas isn't released, I
Bill Board | God's Wrath, Ohio | 06/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the obscenely socialist/existential "theology" behind "Mahagonny," still...it's my very favorite opera, even more entertaining than "Dialogues Of The Carmelites" or "Aida." And that w***ehouse piano solo at the very beginning of Act 15, still, thirty years after initially experiencing "Mahagonny," makes me completely STOP what I'm concurrently "doing" and just LISTEN. Kind of like "Gimme Shelter"..."Birdland"...or "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay," for a couple of examples. I'll neither reiterate nor disagree with what any of my fellow reviwers have mentioned here - except I reckon I'll have to wait till Judgement Day or shortly thereafter to hear "Mahagonny" with Teresa Stratas as Jenny: the DEFINITIVE Jenny!"