Opera Scotland

Seven Deadly Sins The Seven Deadly Sins of the Bourgeoisie; Die Sieben Tods├╝nden der Kleinb├╝rger

Music

Kurt Weill (born Dessau, 2 March 1900; died New York, 3 April 1950) 

Text

Bertolt Brecht

Source

Scenario by Edward James and Boris Kochno.

 

Premieres

First performance: Paris (Théâtre des Champs-Élysées), 12 June 1933.

First UK performance: London (Savoy Theatre), 28 June 1933.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Empire Theatre), 4 September 1961.

Scottish Opera premiere: Edinburgh (HMV Picture House), 29 August 2011.

 

Background

Weill left Germany in 1933 and settled initially in Paris. There he was commissioned to compose a ballet for Balanchine's new company of dancers who had split from Diaghilev. The novel premise for the plot was that the lead character of Anna should be portrayed by two people to illustrate different aspects of her personality - practical (singer) and idealistic (dancer). The work was described as a ballet chanté. When Brecht, also an exile from the Nazis, was brought in to write the libretto, a political element was introduced. The creators were Lotte Lenya (Anna I) and Tilly Losch (Anna II).

The artistic success of the work was immediate and it was instrumental in Balanchine being lured to the USA to establish the New York City Ballet. That company revived the work in 1958. The Edinburgh premiere in 1961 was given by Western Theatre Ballet, nearly a decade before it moved to Scotland (where it continues to operate as Scottish Ballet). The conductor in Edinburgh was Alexander Gibson (from Motherwell) and the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan (from Dunfermline). MacMillan's production, in designs by Ian Spurling, was later taken by him to Covent Garden, where it appeared  regularly in the 1970s. In Edinburgh, the singer was a young Cleo Laine.

 

Characters

Anna I (singer)

Anna II (dancer)

Father (tenor)

Brother (tenor)

Brother (baritone)

Mother (bass)

 

Plot Summary

The ballet takes place over seven scenes, representing the sins - Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, and Envy - with a prologue and epilogue.

Anna is ambitious and wishes to make a fortune to help her family. To this end she leaves her Louisiana home to work her way round the USA. Initially, her family are worried that she may not work hard enough. Her first job is in showbusiness as a dancer. She finds that her early ideas of artistic integrity are inappropriate, and she needs to take a more practical attitude. Business is still slow, so she quickly learns that it is not a good idea to reveal her true feelings about her work or her political views. At last, the money starts to roll in and the family back home are able to enjoy the luxuries of life. However Anna has to be restrained because it is fashionable to be thin, and she would lose work if she put on weight. She discovers she has a dilemma between a rich lover, who is unattractive and intolerant, and a young, more handsome one. She develops into something of a femme fatale, with lovers quarrelling over her. The attendant publicity increases the happiness of the folks back home, since celebrity tends to attract money. Anna has become successful, but she worries that other people seem to have a greater sense of fulfilment. But she realises that doing well is more important than doing good. Having made her fortune, she returns home to her delighted family.

The Cast

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