The Dalhousie Opera Workshop presents KABARETT from January 31-Feb 3 at the Sir James Dunn Theatre in Halifax.
Director Mary Lou Martin makes her Dal Opera Workshop debut, as she guides us on a journey of social commentary from both sides of the Atlantic ranging from hilarity to tragedy. Selections from Weill’s American period and his influence on Bolcom, Britten, Sondheim and Bernstein are included in this Review showcase. Recently she spoke with AE about the show.
AE: How did you get involved with this production?MLM: I was contacted by Marcia Swanston who is a voice teacher at the Dal Music Department and the producer of this show. I was recommended to her by Linda Moore.
AE: What are the challenges of the piece?MLM: The Mahagonny Songspiel is a collectIon of poems by Brecht set to music by Weill. So, although linked thematically, there is little to hang your hat on in terms of concrete story line or character development. Luckily I have lots of experience with revue style shows so am used to dreaming up a context for song cycles. Once I conjured a scenario and a journey for the actors, then we worked collaboratively to achieve a cohesive track.
AE: Does Weill still have an audience?MLM: I think Weill's work will always be timely. His early work was very much social commentary and criticism of the political power structure of his time. Mahagonny was premiered in 1927. Weill escaped Nazi Germany in 1935. There is a pretty big divide between his early work in Germany and his work in America. He took easily to the Broadway style and created 6 shows for Broadway between 1938 and 1947. Most of these are revived by opera companies more so than traditional musical theatre producers. His most enduring piece is Three penny Opera which spins the tale of the outlaw Macheath aka Mack the Knife and explores the underbelly of society. It was first done in English in 1954 and is no doubt the most often revived piece. Weill's influence on musical theatre composers in undeniable, and you can hear it particularly in Bernstein and Sondheim.
AE: To what do you attribute his endurance and appeal?MLM: I think he endures for both his beautiful melodies and the thumbnail sketches of pre-war Germany he provides with his early work.