Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 31 – Apr 23, 2022
Music: Kurt Weill
Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht
Director: Constantine Costi
Cast: Roberta Diamond, Allie Graham, Nicholas Jones, Anthony Mackey, Andy Moran, Benjamin Rasheed, Margaret Trubiano
Images by Robert Catto
This double-bill comprises century-old short operas, The Seven Deadly Sins and Mahagonny Songspiel by German exiles, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Both are stories concerned with decay and decadence, from artists known for their interest in social justice; the former explores the loss of innocence, while the latter has us enter a space that is already debauched. The passage of time seems to have done little to diminish the resonance of these themes. In fact, it is the awareness of capitalism being more pervasive and permanent than ever before, that influences our appreciation of these works. What were once cautionary tales, are now simply statements of fact.
It is a marvellous accomplishment, spearheaded by director Constantine Costi, to have opera playing in the basement of a pub in one of the world’s most monetised cities, complete with professional performers and a finely tuned orchestra.
Charles Davis’ set design miraculously transforms one of our smallest theatre spaces, in order that upwards of 20 people can be accommodated on stage at any one time. The pure luxury of being in complete sonic immersion, is an indulgence that is certainly unparalleled, at least in these parts of the world. Music delivered by Ensemble Apex and their répétiteur Antonio Fernandez, is an incredible pleasure, in the middle of one of the least likely places and times. It is an historic occasion, for Kings Cross at the height of the Covid era.
Costume design by Emma White is campy and humorous, but always elegantly rendered. Trent Suidgeest’s boldly coloured lights deliver for us a visual sumptuousness, even as we negotiate the seedy underbellies of Brecht and Weill’s collaborative imagination.
The stunning voice of Margaret Trubiano commences proceedings, as Anna I in The Seven Deadly Sins , accompanied by the heavenly nimbleness of dancer Allie Graham as Anna II, both women captivating in their respective areas of expertise. Other singers follow, namely Roberta Diamond, Nicholas Jones, Anthony Mackey, Andy Moran and Benjamin Rasheed, to keep us spellbound for the hour-long duration.
There is no doubt that bringing world class opera to an unexpected place, with unsuspecting audiences, is a mammoth undertaking. One sits in the middle of the ambition and tenacity of these remarkable artists, and wonders if the sad state of our economic lives, is indeed a foregone conclusion. Capitalism has advanced so far, and has infiltrated so much into our existence and consciousness, that we no longer dare hope for its abatement. Seeing opera at the Cross however, reminds us that the human spirit is boundless, until we decide that it is time to surrender.