Die Dreigroschenoper at Theater an der Wien

It is always a pleasure to return to Die Dreigroschenoper. I love Weill’s music. I relish Brecht’s text, particularly when as here in Vienna it is given in the original because the sound of German in this work is as important as Italian is for Monteverdi. I respond to the feel of, and atmosphere created by, the piece: the 1920s with their mixture of hedonism and political activism. I have usually seen it in a small scale performance, so the high profile presentation at the Theater an der Wien, with famous opera singers and conductor, was a relatively novel experience.

All the performers caught the right balance between cool nonchalance and cynicism on the one hand and emotion and sentimentality on the other. Nina Bernsteiner as Polly, Florian Boesch as Peachum and Angelika Kirchschlager as his wife thoroughly enjoyed themselves and sang idiomatically without too much resort to operatic cantabile. But the highlight for me was Ann Sofie von Otter in her relatively brief appearance as Jenny. Simple, softly sung and understated, her nostalgia for the good things in life brought me to tears.  Rightly, Mackie was given to an actor, Tobias Moretti, rather than a singer, his songs needing Sprechgesang to capture their full flavour.

The work is not an easy one to stage, because – created in rather a rush – it is episodic in terms of plot and the songs do not contribute to it as they break off for general reflections on life, love and poverty. But British directors Keith Warner and John Lloyd Davies made a good job of the production, with some clever touches to emphasise the guying of operatic form; for example, dressing Polly and Lucy in 18th century costume for their jealousy duet. Johannes Kalitzke directing the Klangforum Wien was the first-rate conductor.