Freitag, 12. Februar 2021

Kurt Weill - The Seven Deadly Sins & Little Threepenny Music (Julia Migenes & London Symphony Orchestra)

"The Seven Deadly Sins" ("Die sieben Todsünden"), a ballet with songs, is surely one of Brecht and Weill's most (unfortunately) neglected masterpieces, and definately one of their most unorthodox pieces.


Kurt Weill fled Germany in 1933 after the Nazis banned his music. Almost immediately upon his arrival in Paris as a refugee, he was commissioned to compose a ballet for a newly formed company, Les Ballets 1933, headed by Boris Kochno and George Balanchine. What resulted was a ballet-with-songs, a story acted, danced and sung. The work brought together again - for the last time as a unit - some of Weill´s most familiar collaborators: Bertolt Brecht for the text, Caspar Neher for the decor, and Lotte Lenya, the composter´s actress-wife. Balanchine took on the duties of choreographer and chose as his principal dancer Tilly Losch. The result was "The Seven Deadly Sins", which received its first public performance in June 1933 at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées.

Julia Migenes (born March 13, 1949) is an American soprano opera singer. She was born on the Lower East Side of New York to a family of Greek and Irish-Puerto Rican descent.

Julia Migenes, of course, sings this masterpieces all divinely, and her dramatic flair and tension is all there, too. Her acting genuinely comes through...

Brechtian "scholars" pointing fingers at Migenes, saying that she would make a pretentious operatic sound while singing this piece, would do better to point their fingers elsewhere. Migenes was a sublime interpreter of Weill's music, and she doesn't just sing it 'prettily' (i.e., 'blandly') like some pretentious Brechtians would accuse. The male quartet that makes up the Annas' family (two tenors-brothers, baritone-dad, bass-mom), are all of very good voice (among them vetrans Alan Opie and Robert Tear).

Of course, the level of comparison is high: The Lotte Lenya recording of this music sets the standard. Her biting, rough-textured voice and dramatic abilities are outstanding....but Ute Lemper comes close, Gisela May comes closer and Marianne Faithfull comes closest. The Faithfull performance has the added benefit of being done in a fine English translation.

But even if Julia Migenes is not one of the top three interpreters of this music, these recordings are definitly worth listening. Sitting in the dark and listening to it is a great experience: the bittersweet ending of the piece is a heart-stopping, brilliant moment.

The orchestra's work is really wonderful, full and rich. Tilson Thomas has gone for a grand performance and it works up to a point.

(192 kbps, front cover included)

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