Last night the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (for which I’ve had season tickets for about 35 years) performed The Seven Deadly Sins by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. In the 1920s Weill and Brecht and their Threepenny Opera was widely performed across Germany. But in 1933 Weill had to flee Berlin. In Paris he was able to get a commission for a new work, something to feature the estranged wife of a rich man. He and Brecht were reunited in one last testy partnership. Though the original is in German, this performance used an English translation.
The piece features a singer, sung by Storm Large in this performance, who is Anna I. In the original conception a dancer performs Anna II. We’re to understand these are two parts of one person. A male quartet sings the role of Family. The two Annas are sent out into the world to work to earn money so the family can build a new house in Louisiana beside the Mississippi River.
Because this is Brecht, there is a twist on each of the seven sins.
Anna II is told she is to shake off sloth and earn the money the family needs.
She has too much pride when she won’t strip and perform for the men who have paid to see her.
She is to refrain from anger because that might offend the casting directors in Los Angeles.
In Philadelphia, her contract forbids her to gain weight, so she had better not be a glutton.
In Boston she must keep her sugar daddy happy and not lust after the man she really wants.
She must not be greedy when performing in Baltimore, because patrons avoid greedy people.
In San Francisco, life may be fine, but one must not envy those who can’t be bought or whose wrath is kindled by injustice. Envy gets in the way of business.