The 2021 Llewellyn Series opens with Stravinsky’s Circus Polka, an unusual commission for a New York ballet production. Tongue-in-cheek, the composer subtitled the work ‘For a Young Elephant’ – it was premiered with 50 elephants of varying ages from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The dancing continues in Holly Harrison’s Fizzin’ Fury – no animals here, but plenty of progressive rock and Dixieland jazz influences.
The centrepiece of the program is Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, a scathing commentary on the perils of capitalist ambitions. This fractured fairytale follows Anna – voiced by Artist in Focus Lorina Gore – as she traverses an imaginary parallel of the United States of America to earn money for her greedy family. Each time Anna’s alter ego tries to behave morally, she’s scolded for failing to commit one of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. Each has its own musical character; a skilful satirist, Weill borrows from popular and traditional music: the foxtrot, the church chorale, circus music – even barbershop quartet.
The Seven Deadly Sins also bristles with the anxiety of the interwar period in which it was composed. Weill began the work in the mid-1930s after leaving Germany for Paris, his music labelled ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis.
A contemporary of Weill, Erich Wolfgang Korngold went even further to escape the reach of Nazi Germany, relocating to the USA and reinventing himself as a symphonic film composer. Dismissed by some critics as a show business sell-out, Korngold was held in high regard among film directors for his romantic, lush and melodic style. Despite his Hollywood success, this virtuosic violin concerto remains his most well-known piece.
Performance of The Seven Deadly Sins is given by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Schott Music Ltd of Mainz.
What: The Seven Deadly Sins by Canberra Symphony Orchestra
When: Wednesday 31 March and Thursday 1 April, 7:30 pm
Where: Llewellyn Hall ANU
Cost: Under 30 $30, concession $49-89, adult $59-101
Tickets: Available at Canberra Symphony Orchestra