There are many aspects to the brilliance of this show, but the greatest revelation is the singing. Every song is brought to new life and character in this production. The director, Barrie Kosky, considers Weill to be as important to music theatre as Wagner, and the priority given to the music pays off wonderfully. The musical director Adam Benzwi has done an astonishing job in maintaining our expectations of the songs, while allowing tempo changes from the orchestra to let the songs breathe with the singers’ performances and interpretation. And what singing!
this revival and refreshment of The Threepenny Opera fully deserves that applause
With such a superb cast throughout, it is invidious to point out individuals - but I’m going to anyway. Cynthia Micas as Polly, not only brings clarity and control but superbly manages the character’s duality of wise-eyed cynic and wide-eyed lover. Bettina Hoppe as Ginny-Jenny provides us with real depth of character in her singing. She has a great line in barely noticeable suppressed anger, which wonderfully undercuts Macheath’s nostalgia in The Pimp’s Song. And I’ll mention Amelie Willberg’s skilful comic screeching as Lucy. In the programme notes, Kosky writes about Weil’s break with the Wagnerian tradition – and this idea is given wicked scope when Lucy is accompanied by a piano in mock répétiteur style as she caterwauls ‘operatically.’
Of course, this production isn’t simply about the music. Kosky does not take Brecht’s words as a sacred text. He strips out or supplements as required (introducing a new character of ‘Soho Moon’ as a wryly detached observer, for example).
The delicious cynicism of the show, where morality is purely an intellectual game, and the characters don’t have the luxury of behaving as anything other than self-interested animals, is used to great comic effect. Macheath is completely dominated by his appetites. (He is captured to be hanged because instead of fleeing Berlin, he spends his time ‘comforting’ the local prostitutes.) No one is shocked or offended by his bad behaviour. It is expected. Macheath’s two brides are passionate about resenting each other, but they hardly give Macheath’s cheating a mention.
The refrains of Mack the Knife detail Macheath's deed as a brutal murderer, and for much of the show his face is blotted with the blood of a policeman he knifed. Yet he thinks of himself as a lovable rogue, and – well – we all go along with it.
Kosky’s production has a particular focus on love - but only narcissistic self-love. Macheath, especially, expects everyone should love him by god-given right. (There is a certain contemporary political relevance in this.) Never has an actor been so committed to milking audience applause. And this revival and refreshment of The Threepenny Opera fully deserves that applause.