When Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Seven Deadly Sins opens for a two-night run on Friday, Feb. 22, it will assemble one of the largest groups of performers ever to appear at once on stage at The Shedd’s Jaqua Concert Hall.
“We’ll have five dancers, five singers and 26 musicians,” says soprano Siri Vik, who is artistic director and sings the lead role of Anna I in in the show. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like. I think it’s going to be thrilling, and probably a challenge, to have that many people singing with that many orchestra players on that stage.”
Those musical forces, conducted by Robert Ashens, will wrestle with a nine-movement “sung ballet” composed by Weill (with libretto by Brecht) that was performed for the first time in Paris in 1933. Since then it has often been performed in a reduced version, eliminating the dancers — including the role of Anna II, a dancer who is Anna I’s alter ego in the satirical show.
As Vik and Shedd Executive Director Jim Ralph discussed the possibility of doing Seven Deadly Sins over the past few years, they realized they wanted to go back to the 1933 version.
“It was like, we have to do this the way it was originally done,” Vik says. “The way it’s often done, the element of dance is underplayed. That makes total sense — it’s expensive to do.”
One big reason to do the original show, Vik says, in spite of the difficulty and expense of dealing with all those performers, is that eliminating the role of Anna II makes the story more psychological rather than political.
The split-personality roles of Anna I and II originated when a wealthy Englishman who commissioned the work from Weill and Brecht insisted that his wife, a ballerina, be cast to dance opposite Lotte Lenya, Weill’s wife, who was to sing the lead.
Only later were the two roles combined in most productions.
“When it’s done that way, it’s implied that we are observing a psychological story rather than a political one,” Vik says. “And so when you separate these two sides of the story, I think it de-emotionalizes some of the character Anna but highlights other things about the progression of events. There’s just something about externalizing both sides of the personality that is important to the original intent.”
Caitlin Christopher choreographs the show. Eugene Ballet dancer Sarah Stockwell plays the part of Anna II. Bill Hulings is stage director and sings the role of Anna’s mother. Cloud Pemble sings Anna’s father, and Boys 1 and 2 are sung by Dylan Stasack and Alex Mentzel. ν
Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins will be performed at 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at The Shedd. Tickets are $28 to $38 at TheShedd.org.