Greek National Opera stages Weill & Brecht masterpiece

Greek National Opera’s production of Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht’s
‘Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’

The Greek National Opera – the country’s state lyric opera company – presents Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s 20th century political and satirical opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Directed by Yannis Houvardas, this new production is led by Miltos Logiadis, and stars a cast of celebrated Greek artists.

Based on the writing of prominent German poet and dramatist, Bertolt Brecht – who wrote the libretto – Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny tells of the fictional city of Mahagonny, a boom town, founded by three criminals on the run, where anything goes – drinking, gambling, sex – as long as the inhabitants have money. The town is soon populated by fortune seekers, prostitutes and shady businessmen and women.

At the center of the action is Jimmy Mahoney, an Alaskan logger who stumbles on the city of Mahagonny. Jenny is a prostitute who takes up with Jimmy, and they become lovers, until he discovers that he cannot pay his bills. He is tried in a court where murderers go free, and is sentenced to death. The city is ultimately destroyed by fire and as it burns, the inhabitants march away carrying placards of protest, although they have nowhere to go.

The opera premiered in Leipzig in 1930, but the performance was interrupted by Nazi-instigated protests. It was positively reviewed however, and despite this, and changes which were made to the libretto and staging, there were only four new productions in German theatres. One of these, in Berlin, was a great success, but the Nazis placed a permanent ban on the performance of Kurt Weill’s music shortly afterwards. In the opera, Weill experimented with jazz and ragtime, including some of his best-known pieces, such Alabama Song and Benares Song.

Today, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has become one of the most popular works of the 20th century, and is now a staple in the repertoire of the world’s leading opera houses and opera festivals.

Mezzo-soprano Marissia Papalexiou, who takes the role of Jenny Smith, was recently seen as Sonyetka in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and as Silvana in Hatzinasios’s El Greco Opera. Jimmy Mahoney is sung by tenor Vassilis Kavayas who was most recently seen as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and will follow these Greek National Opera performances with an appearance in J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Also in the cast are Anna Agathonos as Leokadja Begbick, Christos Kechris as Fatty and Tassos Apostolou as Trinity Moses.

This production of Mahagonny is directed by the renowned Greek theatre director and former artistic director of the National Theatre of Greece, Yannis Houvardas, who returns to Greek National Opera, following the success of his 2018 production of Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair. He describes Mahagonny as the “golden city of our dreams that crumbles to dust and is effaced before our very eyes”, tinged with moments of “exasperation and despair”.

Leading the performances is conductor Miltos Logiadis who is permanent conductor of the Orchestra of Colours. In addition to conducting the Orchestra of the National Opera of Greece, Maestro Logiadis has led a number of concert performances in the country, also orchestras such as the Munich Symphony, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Orchestra of the Opera of Hamburg and the Royal Danish Opera Orchestra.

Miltos Logiadis leads the Greek National Opera and Chorus (Chorus Master Agathangelos Georgakatos) in six performances of Kurt Weill and Bertold Becht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny from 12th to 25th April at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Greek National Opera. Further information and tickets are available from the Greek National Opera website.

All photographs courtesy Greek National Opera

Information sourced from:

Greek National Opera programme notes

Metropolitan Opera

European American Music Distributors Company

ArtsPreview home page

Comments are closed.