The Seven Deadly Sins -


Transcript of The Seven Deadly Sins -

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April 23, 6pm and April 24, 1pm 2010 By arrangement with Hal Leonard

and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Die Sieben Todsünden or The Seven Deadly Sins A ballet chanté in one act.

Music by Kurt Weill.

Libretto by Bertolt Brecht

Die Sieben Todsünden was first performed on June 7, 1933, in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, with George Balanchine, choreographer and

Maurice Abravanel, conductor.

Introduktion 1) Faulheit

2) Stolz 3) Zorn

4) Völlerei 5) Unzucht

6) Habsucht 7) Neid


Synopsis: The two sides of Anna’s personality are presented by a singer and a dancer. The two Annas travel from New Orleans across the USA, seeking their fortune. Their desire is to earn enough to build a house on the banks of the Mississippi, and improve the lot of their poverty stricken family. As Anna I and II experience the woes brought about by each of the seven deadly sins, redemption comes by repenting each of the sins in turn. The two sisters (or two facets of Anna’s psyche) return home after their odyssey, having, in some ways, achieved their goal.

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Anna I Narelle Yeo Anna II Lily Robertson Father Michael Halliwell Mother Javier Villarino Brother I David Commisso Brother II Simon Halligan Lover John Donohoe Violin I Tess Duflou, concertmaster Violin I Carolyn Au Violin I Susannah Cuming Violin I Lin Fang-Yu Violin II Kamol Buranakul Violin II Carol Tang Violin II Sarah Kim Violin II Rebecca Campbell Viola I Timothy Dickinson Viola Joplin Lu Cello Ester Hwang Bass Elson Price Bass Robin Brawley Bass Brian Sim Flute Ozzie Nelson Flute Jemma Reeves Flute/Piccolo Emma Skinner Clarinet Lisa McCowage Oboe Alex Fontaine Trumpet I Jonathan Baker Trombone Nicholas Loge Tuba Nelson Woods Percussion Adranne Teh Harp Jennifer Betzer Banjo/Guitar Mark Chivers Piano Ma Ka Chu

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In the summer of 1933, having fallen out with Bertolt Brecht, Weill approached Jean Cocteau to deliver a libretto of weight and political significance exploring the catholic notion of the seven deadly sins. (The sins were a medieval construction, loosely based on biblical dicta, but having roots in Hellenic astrological rites of the fourth century (Bloomfield, 1941)). Cocteau, it transpired, was busy. Weill was forced to beg Brecht to complete the project for him, and it became their final collaboration. Their mutual history had been both impressive and highly fraught, culminating in their famous fall-out over Mahoganny in 1928 (Heisler, 2006). They were the creators of a political theatre, yet after three months of detailed collaboration on the new project, Brecht appears to have lost interest, and uncharacteristically left Weill with very little oversight to complete the work (Juchem, 2009). “Die Sieben Todsünden” seemed a pertinent metaphor for the Jewish born Weill, who, having already moved to Paris, watched the declining German political and social conditions from afar. Weill was a leading musical figure in the early Weimar republic, yet Nazism was rapidly rising in Germany, ultimately leading to his move to America in 1935. Brecht and Weill’s collaborations are famous for their spirited satire on the political structure, Marxist leanings and their agitating agenda (Juchem, 2009). Brecht’s focus was on moral provocation (Ziolkowski, 2009), “not the straining towards a climax but the cumulative effect of the scenes.” (Gorelik, 1957 quoted in Martin & Bial, 2000) Weill lifts the material away from Brecht’s pondering didacticism, into compelling dramatic musical scenas tinged with sarcasm. Weill sought to transform opera and musical theatre, and espoused his own conception of Wagner’s “Gesamtkunstwerk”. He was interested in developing a new aesthetic of opera and musical theatre, where acting and singing held equal importance, and vocal colour was beholden to the dramatic demands of the role, sacrificing beauty at times for dramatic intention (Albrecht, 2000). His first opera had yet to be premiered when he noted, “Musically and vocally our opera singers are fit for new tasks, but in terms of acting—be it facial expression or body language or general movement—opera performances lag far behind the accomplishments of today’s theater. The lack of genuine, natural performances is especially painful.” (Juchem, 2009). Weill was opposed to the hedonistic nature of nineteenth century opera, and aimed his theatre squarely at the bourgeois (Albrecht, 2000). A “ballet chante” rather than an opera, “Die Sieben Todsünden” under Weill became an experiment in genre, and gender, bending. Anna’s mother is played by a baritone. The two protagonists, a dancer and a singer, are often presented as two aspects of the female, and Anna I has historically been played with some androgyny, following the lead of Weill’s wife and muse, Lotte Lenya.

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The discussion currently heard on the political left that America’s excesses are responsible for rampant materialism and the destruction of core values, coupled with religious piety, has clear and present parallels to Brecht’s own views on America, and Germany, in the 1930s (Ruland, 1963). It allows the presentation of two sides of any story. Brecht also used the split personality metaphor in many of his works as a tool to compare dueling ideals of personal desire and collective good (Demetz, 1962). Weill, throughout his career writing for German and American stages, intentionally juxtaposes high art and popular music. Like Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” of the same period, “Die Sieben Todsünden” arrests with its simplicity and use of popular idiom, but its treatment of that idiom is complex. For example, his experimentation with waltz, foxtrot, popular song and march elements are able to delineate personal suffering on the one hand, and with sarcasm, the lightness of bourgeois concerns on the other. Weill and his muse, wife and cabaret artist Lotte Lenya, pioneered a kind of ‘whole theatre’ performance; an idea that has unfolded since, albeit with some difficulty. The quite recent cleaving of opera and musical theatre into parts: historical interpretation (opera) and the transformation of high art into popular form (musical theatre) points by omission to the brilliance of Weill’s ability to meld these elements together in one whole. Weill’s elevating or devolving each genre as needed, produces a cynical interplay of different textures that are central elements of his distinctive style. Seven Deadly Sins is socio-political satire of 1930s Germany (Heisler, 2006). Some of the work is set in New Orleans, and one can find some parallel social conditions and attitudes in the USA during 2005, as Hurricane Katrina decimated the city. The discussion currently heard on the political left that America’s excesses are responsible for rampant materialism and the destruction of core values, coupled with religious piety, has clear and present parallels to Brecht’s own views on America, and indeed Germany, in the 1930s (Ruland, 1963). Now that music theatre has in some ways caught up to Weill’s all-encompassing ideal, this work has a new music resonance, as well as political salience. Bringing Weill’s idea of New Orleans into a new century gives a new urgency and presence to this work. New historical parallels lift a potentially nostalgic period cabaret to a bitter analysis of the seven distinct failures of systems, of protection, of faith, of politics, of ideals, of democracy, of humanity even, that occurred so recently in the USA. This updating attempts to revive the political portent of the Brecht/Weill collaboration for current audiences (Ziolkowski, 2009). On the turning of this century, realism demands a voice and cynicism is tempered with reverence for the personal. Though minimalist due to the constraints of space and funding, this production attempts to personalise the story of the Annas, exploring the dictum “the personal is political” (Hanisch, 1978). It attempts to create true theatrical motion by developing a through-line across the sisters’

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journey into hell and back, a hell found, cynically, in the belly of the world’s most successful capitalist democracy. Perhaps unintended by Weill and Brecht, a feminist reading of the work also can be seen when epic is partnered with the simple and the personal. Anna faces choices of great spiritual weight. She survives battered to return home from her excursion into a man’s world, chastened and wizened by the life outside. Whether or not she follows her foolish desires the result is the same, and thus suffering marks women who push boundaries and follow individual desires. The two Annas are two representations of the female, choosing two paths and two destinies that end in equal torment. As the libretto states, the women share ‘a past, a future, a heart and a pocketbook’. Weill’s cynicism is expressed thus: Anna will experience suffering, even if she renounces sin. This production confronts the personal as political, addressing the enculturation of a woman in a world dominated by bourgeois materialism and religious piety. The cynicism with which Brecht presents his worldview can derail nuanced acting, but this writer sees Weill’s satire as more nuanced, and accessible through the exploration of the personal. This performance is an attempt to present the journey of Anna as a slow descent into the inevitable trials of living in an “entitled” America in 2005. Brecht and Weill’s cynicism is filled with purpose, and hopefully this production captures the strength and virtue in Weill’s theatrical method. It is hoped this production leaves the audience wondering what could have been, both in New Orleans, 2005, and in Germany, 1933…

Narelle Yeo BIBLIOGRAPHY Albrecht, D. F. (2000). Kurt Weill as Modernist. Modernism/modernity, 7(2). Bloomfield, M. (1941). The Origin of the Concept of the Seven Cardinal Sins. Harvard Theological Review, 34(2), 121-128. Demetz, P. F. (1962). Brecht: A Collection of Critical Essays. New York: Prentice-Hall. Hanisch, C. (1978). The Personal is Political. In Restaging the sixties,: radical theaters and their legacies (pp. 204-205). New York: Random House. Heisler, W. (2006). Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht: The Seven Deadly Sins. Opera Quarterly, 22(1), 165-169. Juchem, E. (2009). Kurt Weill Foundation. Kurt Weill Newsletter, 27(1). Martin, C., & Bial, H. (2000). Brecht sourcebook. New York: Routledge. Ruland, R. (1963). The American Plays of Bertolt Brecht. American Quarterly, 15(3), 371-389. Ziolkowski, T. (2009). Scandal on stage: European theater as moral trial. (5th ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Translations and surtitles by Narelle Yeo. Projections are provided under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.

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Japanese conductor Sadaharu Muramatsu graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK with a Master of Music (MMus) in conducting. He was then granted a fellowship under the Japanese Government Overseas Program for Artists from 2008 to 2010. In 2001 Sadaharu won the first prize at the ISIS Conducting Competition in Cambridge (UK), and in 2005 he was awarded the Mortimer Furber Prize for Conducting in Manchester (UK). He was a semi-finalist in the 2007 Bela Bartok International Opera Conducting Competition in Romania, and finalist in the Emmerich Kalman International Conductor's Competition in Budapest, Hungary, winning the Special Jury Prize. Broadcast on tv from the Budapest Operetta Theatre , he conducted Grafin Marizza and Die Csardasfurstin. In 2007 Sadaharu conducted the Japanese premiere of the Broadway musical The Light in the Piazza in Tokyo. He has conducted several operas including The Marriage of Figaro and Hansel and Gretel, and in Sydney 2009 he conducted Il Signor Bruschino by Rossini at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Sadaharu has studied conducting under Imre Pallo, Kurt Masur, Sir Mark Elder, Gianandrea Noseda, Christian Mandel, Hirofumi Misawa and Kazuki Sawa. This year he is music director for the Wesley Institute Asian tour, and on 7th and 8th of May he will conduct “Il Campanello” by Donizetti at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Narelle Yeo, director, began her performing career in the USA, following graduate studies at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University (Shepherd Society Scholarship) and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she received the prestigious Opera Award on completion. She then performed some 30 roles in musical theatre, theatre and opera across the western United States before her return to Australia. She has bowed with the San Francisco Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony, Goshen Bach Festival, the highly acclaimed Theatreworks, Monterey Opera, California Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco Lyric Opera and West Bay Opera. While in the USA she was Assistant Director in the Opera Program at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and mentored by Willene Gunn, directing myriad scenes and opera productions, and was responsible for teaching the undergraduate Stage Basics for Singers course. In Australia she has directed for Rockdale Opera and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Ma Ka Chun is studying for his Masters of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, receiving the Molly McAulay Memorial Scholarship in 2009, and studying under Gerard Willems. Ma Ka Chun was a recipient of the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation Scholarship. He received his Bachelor Degree from the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts (HKAPA) in 2009. His teachers there included Hui Ling and Mary Wu. Throughout his studies he has performed classical solo and chamber pieces. He has also premiered works by Hong Kong composers and participated in numerous musicals such as Jekyll & Hyde and The Fantasticks. Ma has performed for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the band Kolor. He was also one of the founders and music director of the Music & Magic Theater in Hong Kong.

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I am constantly amazed at the astounding kindness of so many musicians residing at this institution, their generosities shown without fanfare and from unexpected quarters. To each and every person involved in the preparation of this work, I am so humbled by your contributions, all made in the spirit of true collaborative music making. In particular, I would like to thank: Sada Matsumada, for his massive conducting talent, for passionate and generous music making. A true gentleman and a true friend. Ka Chun, for giving so much to this rehearsal period, for his beautiful, nuanced playing, his sense of humour, but mostly for “This is the Moment”. Michael Halliwell, for his wonderful support and guidance in myriad ways as my doctoral supervisor, for his superb musicality…and for the honeycakes. Dame Maree Ryan, for unmeasured assistance in vocal preparation over so many years, and for continual kindness and support. Sir David Miller, for the light flickering with new insights every single time he begins to play. Pierre St Just Esq., for knowing everything about,,,um…everything, and being willing to so generously share his amazing skills in making theatre magic happen. Jonathan Wood and Marie Chellos, for so kindly securing the orchestral rights and parts. Sally Blackwood for being so accommodating with schedules. Helen Mitchell, for reminding me to get on with my research. Kathleen Nelson, for guiding me so thoughtfully through the intricacies of the administration of a doctorate. Anne Grünewald for five star German coaching. Takeshi Shimada for beautiful graphic design. Jarrad Salmon, for making the screen happen. I still can’t believe it! Hideki Isoda and Dom Blake, for audiovisual assistance. Stephen Yates, the man who can tame any machine and find any free practice room. Danny White and Michael Dutton, attendants, can and will do anything with a smile. Adrian Cardinali and Supra for invaluable advice and assistance. Val Morgan, for help with room allocations. Emma Moore for all manner of rehearsal and backstage assistance. David Hidden, for always proffering himself, a screwdriver and a hammer to any task, no matter how small. Jonathan Yeo, computer genius. Ulisses Amaral for conducting assistance. Elaine Chia for all round brilliance. Amanda Windred, for getting people in and out with poise and class. Lily Robertson, for her willingness to experiment. John Donohoe, for the game. David Commisso, for being a human encyclopedia. Javier Villarino, for adding class to any event. By the way, “nice shirt”. Simon Halligan, for making chicken very unpopular. Di Brogan, for going above and beyond the call of duty, as usual. Mum, Dad, Schuyler, Mackenzie, Saskia, and especially Michael, for loving me and my own deadly sins. THANK YOU!