In 1929, German composer Kurt Weill and playwright Bertold Brecht joined forces to create a theatrical work known by its original name, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. When the opera was completed the following year and ready to be premiered in Leipzig, Nazi sympathizers were so outraged by what they were witnessing on stage, that a riot erupted inside the theatre. The opening night debacle of a work fascists considered “depraved” marked the beginning of the end of Weill’s musical career in a Germany.
Bogotá audiences are in for a real treat this month when the curtain rises in the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Theatre for a first ever performance of this vituperative musical satire, known by its English name, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Set in a city in the American West, decades before La Vegas was imagined, Mahagonny is a licentious and debaucherous place, where illicit behavior is rewarded with whiskey and dollars. Cast into this musical dystopia are three criminals on the run and anti-heroes of a richly textured and seductive score.
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is a co-production between the Teatro Mayor, Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires and Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile. The staging for this modern Sodom and Gomorrah is in the hands of Marcelo Lombardero, artistic director of the Colón Teatre and founder of the entity’s Chamber Opera. Lombardero recently staged Lady Macbeth of Msensk for the Wielki Theater of Poznan and named “Best Opera Production” in the Polish 2011-2012 season.
The production’s musical director is Chilean Pedro Pablo Prudencio of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Santiago and a regularly invited conductor at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago. The Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra (OFB), Youth Philharmonic Choir of the OFB and Bogotá Philharmonic Choir are in charge of the music in this three act opera, considered one of Weill’s most brilliant and inventive. Mezzo-Soprano Evelyn Ramírez interprets fugitive Leokadia and tenor Pedro Espinoza, takes on the role of Fatty the Bookkeeper. Baritone Hernán Iturralde plays the role of Trinity Moses, another fugitive, while tenor Gustavo López Manzitti is Jimmy Mahoney, an Alaskan lumberjack who sets off for Mahagonny to find respite the cold. Other soloists in this mega production include María Victoria Gaeta (Jenny Smith), Homero Pérez Miranda (Joe); Javier Felipe Cevallos (Tobby); Andrés Felipe Orozco (Jack); Juan Fernando Gutierrez (Bill).
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is a powerful work that takes on contemporary issues such as immigration, alienation and voracious capitalism. It is a work as pertinent today as when Brecht and Weill sat down to imagine a musical utopia-turned-critique of the social values of the Weimar Republic. Audiences will also enjoy “Alabama Song,” the opera’s anthem to unrequited dreams and immortalized in 1967 by Jim Morrison, vocalist of The Doors.
Performances start 8:00 pm on February 27, March 1 and March 3.
Tickets range from $40,000 pesos to $300,000 pesos and are available at the Teatro Mayor box office or tuboleta.com
Teatro Mayor – Calle Ave.170 No. 67-51.