The commentary and challenge of Kabarett

Opera Workshop production runs through February 3

- January 31, 2013

Brittany Cann, Kat Smith, Adrienne Lusk and Lindsay Connolly perform  "Sex Appeal", a Weimar-era cabaret song from the 1920s. (Nick Pearce photos)
Brittany Cann, Kat Smith, Adrienne Lusk and Lindsay Connolly perform "Sex Appeal", a Weimar-era cabaret song from the 1920s. (Nick Pearce photos)

The Dalhousie Opera Workshop is changing up the tune from last year’s Sweeney Todd and transforming the Dunn Theatre — cabaret-style.

Kabarett, opening Thursday, features German composer Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel, followed by a musical review of Weill’s later work along with pieces by other cabaret composers.

The Opera Workshop performance is one of the highlights of the Department of Music’s season each year.

“I think it’s really exciting, very different from what we’re used to doing,” said Meg Jamieson, third-year voice student, who plays Jessie in the show.

Discovering the pieces

Jamieson's comment about Kabarett being different is true in several ways, but perhaps one more prominently than others: this is the first Department of Music opera in recent years that is not primarily sung in English. The centrepiece of the opera, Mahagonny Songspiel, is sung in English and German, with translations of the titles projected on screens for the non-German speakers in the theatre.

Meghan Jamieson, Jeremy Dutcher, Brittany Cann in Kurt Weill's "Mahagonny Songspiel."

The complexity of Weill’s music has kept the cast busy since the fall, understanding the notes and the story. Luckily, their talent and training makes the task slightly easier.

“The talent in the music program is amazing,” says Mary Lou Martin, making her debut as director for the Opera Workshop with Kabarett. Her direction and the plain canvas of the cabaret style show have given the performers an opportunity to interpret and understand the various emotions in the pieces.

“She took an abstract show and let us figure out it out for ourselves,” says Jamieson. “We can take a lot more pride because we were given our own creative license.”

Commentary through music

Not only has the director allowed for self interpretation, but the timeless theme of Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel also granted the students creative license.

Mahagonny Songspiel is about the decay of society,” says Marcia Swanston, producer and voice area coordinator in the Department of Music.

The story follows characters who are lured to the new city of Mahagonny with the promise of a faster, easier life, but their experience falls short of the high expectations. The newcomers discover that Mahagonny is a trap and become unhappy with their new life.

Cabaret is considered social commentary in the form of music and Weill’s commentary through Mahagonny Songspiel resonates today’s society, says Martin.

“I feel politically we’re at a very parallel place right now,” she said.

Brandon Adams, second-year transfer student in the Department of Music, agrees.

“[Weill is] making many, many commentaries on the destruction of society — a lot of that you can related to right now,” he says.

Kabarett runs from Thursday, January 31 until Sunday, February 3 in the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday, which is a 2:30 matinee. For tickets, visit the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office.


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