Briefly noted: Three Brecht bits

(1) In connection with its current production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, England’s Royal Opera engaged novelist and essayist Will Self to lecture on the piece. The Guardian recently published an edited extract of his lecture, which you can find here. It struck me as an oddly dyspeptic piece of work, although from a certain standpoint it’s rather a hoot. I’d love to have been in his audience to sense the response to declarations such as these:

If there’s one thing about which I feel confident – despite the radical contingencies that typify our world – it’s that there will be no rioting or disruption whatsoever at the Royal Opera’s production of Mahagonny.

In our febrile contemporary milieu, scandals and riots cannot be generated at will.…

In that case, why bother to serve Mahagonny up? This woeful tale of a consumption-led Cockaigne that degenerates into anarchic tyranny cannot possibly have any real impact on us.

Incidentally, the April 1 performance of this Mahagonny will be transmitted live to cinemas, and it appears that two locations in New York City will be presenting it later, on May 3: Symphony Space and the Sunshine Cinema.

(2) A production of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle just began its run at Yale Repertory Theatre, where it will continue through April 11. One attraction of this staging is that it includes music by Yale-based composer David Lang. Information is available here.

(3) A handful of Brecht books have been published lately. The February-March issue of Bookforum includes a review by Eric Banks of three: a new biography, by Stephen Parker; a study by Pamela Katz of Brecht and Weill’s music-theater work and the contributions made by Lotte Lenya, Helene Weigel, and Elizabeth Hauptmann; and a collection of love poems by Brecht, which is the first volume of a series intended to publish English translations of all of Brecht’s poetry. Banks begins by asking, “Has there ever been a figure whose name so signals in equal parts cottage industry and relative neglect…as Bertolt Brecht?” and concludes that these three works “may make it possible to love and fear Brecht anew.” Sadly, his review isn’t available online. Brechtians may wish to hie themselves to the bookshop and look for it.


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