This production of The Seven Deadly Sins, a collaboration between A Compay Chordelia and Scottish Opera, adds further levels of distancing meta-theatricality to Kurt Weill’s satire of Great Depression-era America. Anna, a young girl from Louisiana played simultaneously by soprano Nadine Livingston and dancer Kirsty Pollock, travels to the ‘big cities’ to earn money for her family, on the way encountering temptation in the form of the eponymous sins. In this production, Pollock’s Anna II now stars in a film of her own life with Livingston’s Anna I directing. The production does well to render this further complexity blisteringly effective through a combination of set design and impressive direction, giving new grit to the opera by refocusing the satire on film as escapism. To that end, before the ‘ballet chanté’ begins, a series of 1930s film reels are shown to settle the audience into the era and provide crucial context.
The music challenges the listener with forceful chants from the all-male (including ‘Mother’) family played off against the slow, southern slides of Anna I’s nostalgic musings on Louisiana. Occasionally the men are poorly balanced as a quartet, making it difficult to understand the libretto, but this is very rare in this slick, professional production. The choreography is superb throughout, particularly the more Chaplinesque moments during Anna’s wrothful phase and the repeated ‘Lust’ sequence. The orchestra, belonging to Scottish Opera, is as perfectly composed as one could hope for and the venue provides an unparalleled chance to see them up close while enjoying a fantastic acoustic.
With a libretto by Brecht, this is not an entrancing or involving opera but rather an immensely entertaining confrontation. Although the satire does not bite as cruelly as it did in 1933, this production of a little known and little performed sung ballet represents the pinnacle of professionalism available at the Fringe.