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Stephen Eddins, January 2009

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is a difficult piece of theatre to pull of effectively because both Brecht's text and Weill's music are so drenched in irony that it has the effect of distancing audiences emotionally from the action onstage. The authors' stated intent, in fact, was to create a work that broke so completely with the traditions of opera that it would provoke audiences to think more than to feel. Any production, then, needs to be evaluated not primarily in terms of its emotional impact, but in its success at getting the audience to think, and that's a tricky proposition, given the inherent emotional charge of music and of drama, particularly when they're joined together. The performance by the Los Angeles Opera achieves mixed results in its 2007 production of the opera. The production values are high throughout, and for the most part it's a visually powerful show. The set, by Mark Bailey, is often arresting, and its odd juxtapositions are indeed thought-provoking. Ann Hould-Ward's costumes are vivid and diverse, and contribute significantly to the striking visuals. Director John Doyle is most effective in scenes that involve intimate human interaction, such the first encounter between Jimmy McIntyre and Jenny Smith, and in the stylized crowd scenes, but an awful lot of time is given to the performers just standing still and singing straight to the audience. The performers who make the strongest dramatic impact are, not surprisingly, Patti LuPone and Audra MacDonald, experienced stage actors whose mere presence is riveting; they inhabit their characters so imaginatively and naturally that whenever they're onstage it's impossible to take your eyes off them. In spite of many memorable moments, the production team's lack of a coherent perspective on the problematic work ultimately leaves the viewer perplexed. The finale, which is indeed supposed to be powerfully chaotic, simply comes across as confusing and aimless; there's no way of making any sense of it without having read a synopsis beforehand.

The musical performances, though, are uniformly splendid; this may actually be the rare opera that makes its strongest impact as a purely aural experience, and perhaps the piece would have been better served if it had been released as a CD rather than a DVD. Audra MacDonald's warm and sensuous soprano is perfect for Weill, and everything she sings here has a gleaming clarity. Tenor Anthony Dean Griffey is dramatically ineffectual onstage, but his singing is fabulous—full and powerful and passionately felt. Patti LuPone makes an indelible impression—this is a singing actor who knows how to use her voice to etch an unforgettable character. The supporting cast, Robert Wörle, Donnie Ray Albert, John Easterlin, Mel Ulrich, and Steven Humes are all very fine. The Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus perform with ferocious vitality under James Conlon's energetic direction.

Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, November 2008

my opera pick of the year…is the stunning Los Angeles Opera production of the Weill-Brecht Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, smartly cast with singers from both sides of the opera/Broadway divide: Anthony Dean Griffey, Patti Lupone, and Audra McDonald…

To read the complete review, please visit Fanfare online.

Matthew Westphal, November 2007

What happens in Mahagonny will not stay in Mahagonny, it seems ...

A telecast of Los Angeles Opera's 2007 revival of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, the Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht opera of the proverbial town without pity, will air on PBS stations across the United States beginning Monday, Dec. 17.

The production stars two members of Broadway royalty, both of whom were making their L.A. Opera debuts: Audra McDonald as Jenny, the enterprising whore who makes her way to the boomtown, and Patti LuPone as Leocadia Begbick, madam extraordinaire and Mahagonny's presiding spirit. Joining them are Anthony Dean Griffey as Jimmy McIntyre, Robert Wörle as Fatty the Bookkeeper, John Easterlin as Jack O'Brien, Mel Ulrich as Bank Account Bill, Donnie Ray Albert as Trinity Moses, Derek Taylor as Toby Higgins and Steven Humes as Alaska Wolf Joe.

L.A. Opera music director James Conlon conducts, with stage direction by John Doyle, whose searing staging of Sweeney Todd won a Tony Award in 2006 and whose Broadway production of Sondheim's Company received plenty of acclaim, several Tony nominations and one Tony Award (for Best Revival of a Musical) earlier this year.

The L.A. Mahagonny airs on WNET-TV in New York on Monday, Dec. 17 at 9:00 p.m. and again at 12:30 a.m. on Friday, December 21, while KCET-TV in Los Angeles presents the opera on Saturday, Dec. 22. Check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area.

That same week, the production becomes available to home viewers in a new high-definition DVD release from EuroArts Music International. Online retailers such as are already taking pre-orders for the holidays; the official release date is Dec. 18.

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3:30:54 PM, 30 July 2015
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