The Seven Deadly Sins | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Seven Deadly Sins


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Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's final collaboration is also one of their most interesting. In this "spectacle in nine scenes," as Weill called it, the Threepenny Opera creators relate the story of two sisters--or two halves of the same person--who set out to earn the money to build a home for their impoverished family in rural Louisiana. The women, both named Anna, represent complementary aspects of human nature: cynical Anna I comments in song on the danced actions of idealistic Anna II, whose futile attempts to hew to conventional notions of virtue map out a satirical interpretation of the seven deadly sins. Here, a "sin" is anything that frustrates Anna's quest for fame and fortune--her temporary refusal to pander to the patrons of a nightclub is "pride," for instance, and her rejection of a rich suitor for a poor lover is "lust." Brecht's libretto is set to some of Weill's most ravishing and witty music, alternately lush and acerbic, which filters the influence of Lutheran hymns, jazz, blues, ragtime, minstrel songs, and patriotic marches through a German expressionist sensibility. Die sieben Todsunden der Kleinburger (the full title translates as "The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petit Bourgeois") has been heard in concert locally: the Chicago Symphony has presented it with both Marianne Faithfull and Ute Lemper. But it's rarely been staged as intended, with a dancing Anna as well as a singing Anna. This weekend's rendition by Orchestra X (whose previous efforts include a new version of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale created with Kurt Vonnegut for Steppenwolf's "Traffic" series) features two real-life sisters--mezzo Cynthia Mallard and dancer Rachel Mallard--in the roles played by Lotte Lenya and Tilly Losch in the work's 1933 premiere. David Miller conducts the performance, which will be in German with English supertitles; Robert Fellbinger, Sean Miller, Richard Knapp, and Steven Johnson are the male quartet representing Anna's pious family. Friday, June 15, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.


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