Stage Door News

Toronto: VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert presents Kurt Weill’s “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” March 30 and 31

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert concludes the current season with Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY, an unblinking look at social tensions in Weimar Germany. The work premiered at the Neues Theater in Leipzig in 1930.  Weill and his collaborator Bertolt Brecht had been hailed for their ground-breaking satire THE THREEPENNY OPERA and expectations were high for their new work.  “Our current global upheaval is fertile ground for a renewed look at the output of these two leaders of German Expressionism”, says VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert’s Silva-Marin, “and we hope that MAHAGONNY will once again delight and outrage theatre-goers.”  The two performances will be at the St Lawrence Centre on Saturday, March 30th at 8 pm and Sunday, March 31st at 2:30 pm.

Robert Cooper, C.M. will lead the performances as music director with Narmina Afandiyeva at the piano.  The stellar cast includes Elizabeth DeGrazia as Jenny, an early immigrant to the newly founded city of Mahagonny.  Elizabeth starred in Toronto and on tour in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and has been featured on Broadway and at other leading theatres in the USA and Canada.  Beste Kalender, winner of the first Stuart Hamilton Memorial Award is Widow Begbeck, the conniving and unscrupulous proprietor of the Whisky Bar.  Michael Barrett is the Alaskan lumberjack Jimmy Mahoney, who comes to a bad end when he can’t pay his liquor bill. They are joined by Stuart Hamilton Memorial Winner Evan Korbut, Cian Horrobin, Joshua Clemenger, Danlie Rae Acebuque, Edward Larocque, Sebastien Belcourt and the VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert Chorus...denizens of that fabled city in the American desert.

Weill’s output continues to defy categorization.  He was a student of Busoni and Humperdinck in Berlin and he had become a highly regarded composer by the time he met Brecht. Their partnership thrived for a time until Brecht’s political views took an extreme turn and they drifted apart. Weill emigrated to the USA in 1935 where he heartily embraced Broadway, leading his European fans to accuse him of selling out to the almighty dollar. Weill himself summed his philosophy up best in a New York Sun interview from 1940: “I have never acknowledged the difference between ‘serious’ music and ‘light’ music.  There is only good music and bad music.  Schönberg has said he is writing for a time 50 years after his death.  But the great classical composers wrote for their contemporary audiences.  They wanted those who heard their music to understand it, and they did.  For myself, I write for today, I don’t give a damn about writing for posterity.”

‘Oh Moon of Alabama’, ‘Let’s go to Benares’, and ‘Deep in Snow-white Forests’ are three of the songs from MAHAGONNY that have crossed over from the stage to the concert hall whether sung by opera stars from the original production or jazz singers in the smoky nightclubs of the 50s and 60s.

Opera in Concert is supported by the Jackman Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. Media partners are Classical 96.3 FM and EPOCH TIMES.  Single tickets are available from the St. Lawrence Centre’s Box Office, 27 Front St. East, by phone – 416-366-7723 or 1-800-708-6754 – or online at  The theatre is wheelchair accessible and close to public transit and municipal parking.

Photo: Playbill for the world premiere of Mahagonny in Berlin in 1930.