By Veronika Kallus
A fantastic cast was pulled together in all quarters as orchestra musicians, opera singers and ballet dancers for this performance of The Seven Deadly Sins. But Bert Brecht/Kurt Weill arrangements are traditionally difficult to stage because large and loud instrumental groups often have to compete with small vocal casts (like for example in The Threepenny Opera). In this joined production by Scottish Opera and Company Chordelia, unfortunately the 40 piece orchestra wins this competition, with the story told in the lyrics left almost incomprehensible for audience members without background knowledge of the narrative.
The set up in Paterson’s Land meant that 40 musicians were sitting between audience and stage – serried across maybe 8 metres. Any voice would struggle to make itself heard across this set-up. Brecht’s opera is quite self-explanatory – but without understanding the lyrics, no one without previous knowledge would have a chance to understand the storyline.
The voices are clear and expressive, the singers in general easy-to-read and suiting their roles. The dancers also seem to be excellent – unfortunately there is not really enough space for them to move.
In The Seven Deadly Sins, Anna is sent out into the wide world by her family in Louisiana, to earn enough money to build a little house and support herself and her family. Anna – represented as Anna I and Anna II, a singer and a dancer – travels for seven years, living and working in seven different cities, and coming across Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Greed and Envy on the way.
In this production, the stage is divided in two, with one half being a Hollywood studio where Anna’s life is made into a movie, the other showing her family (a male voice quartet) slowly building the house. The stage set up is really clear, thoroughly thought through, and it works marvellously in its simplicity.
It’s a shame that is excellent production falls victim to the way it has to be staged in Paterson’s Land.