Thursday, April 11, 2013


Down-Dating in Art

Literally Zeitgeist means 'time-ghost' but it has come to signify the expression of a period of time. Art can transport you backwards in time, and also to a particular place: think Pelléas, think Mahler, think Elgar and, here and now, think Kurt Weill/Berlin/Die Dreigroschenoper. Actually this ballad opera has performed the trick twice: firstly in 1728 with The Beggar's Opera, the father of the genre of ballad-operas; and then, exactly two hundred years later in Berlin, with text by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill (It also had another British life when it ran in Glastonbury and then London for over two hundred performances in the Twenties).

Weill composed his music so that singing-actors could perform. He scored it for a dance-band combo: cello, bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon, trombone, percussion, keyboards, bandoneon, banjo and mandoline, guitars, and pairs of saxes and trumpets. Vladimir Jurowski conducted but couldn't keep his hands off the piano, sharing it with the always excellent Catherine Edwards, first-class all of them, a superbly decadent racket, more Cabaret then Cabaret. Choir and orchestra of the London Philharmonic were on top-obviously-enjoying-themselves-form, bunched together in a rhomboid, all span and spick in white and black. The soloists were tip-top: Sir John Tomlinson/Peachum, gutsy and guttural, Felicity Palmer as sleazy as all get-out, Mark Padmore/Macheath as smooth as a Comedian Harmonist and what do you expect of a Jenny whose name is given in the programme book as Meow Meow? Right, you got it.

We owe a lot to the conductor, Vladimir Jurowski; this is his last season in Sussex where he has done wonders and as director of the LPO where he has done consistently marvellous work and devised really interesting programmes, as witness this Dreigroschenoper.  Hey, Mister Jurowski, thank you and …. what about bringing the whole lot of you to Glyndebourne to perform the opera on the stage? (The hills would be alive with the sound of Kurt Weill).

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