- Recorded live at Los Angeles Opera, 1 & 4 March 2007 - Picture Format: NTSC · 16:9 anamorphic - Sound Formats: PCM Stereo · Dolby Digital 5.1 · DTS 5.1 - Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish - Booklet Notes: English, German, French - Bonus feature: "James Conlon on Mahagonny"
Brecht's text is very much of its time, the late 1920's. The city of Mahagonny is a vision--really a nightmare--of capitalist greed where sin flourishes, money is all, and poverty is a crime. On the run from the police, Begbick and her accomplices are stalled in the desert and decide to build a city "where anything goes." Soon the place is booming, with money tossed around aimlessly. But money doesn't bring happiness when love is a commodity and license to do anything turns into boredom. When the city survives the threat of a typhoon, the people binge, celebrating to an excess of eating, loving, fighting, and drinking. When Jimmy can't pay his liquor bill he's condemned to death.
While Brecht's vision of theatre distances the audience, stage director John Doyle's stylistically minimalist production allows room for emotional impact, primarily through the affecting acting of McDonald and Griffey, whose death scene is moving in its simple staging. Against designer Mark Bailey's non-realistic sets that suggest, rather than portray, the city, Doyle deploys his cast in expressionistic modes, often lined across the stage directly addressing the audience. And Brecht would have approved the contemporary references sprinkled through the production--the sin city in the desert recalls Las Vegas' transformation into a gambling mecca in the 1950s, and after Jimmy's execution, his paramour Jenny is presented with a neatly folded flag reminiscent of military burials. The DVD production faithfully tracks the stage action, wisely pulling back for full stage views as well as providing sufficient close-ups of the action. The opera is done in Michael Feingold's idiomatic translation but it would have been helpful to have English subtitles. An extra bonus track is a cogent interview with conductor James Conlon, who provides valuable analysis of the opera and its context. --Dan Davis