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Work of the Week – Kurt Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins

Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins / Staatstheater Stuttgart

The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden) is one of Kurt Weill’s best-known and most frequently performed works. On 21 September, a new orchestration of the ballet chanté for 15 players will receive its premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn with Ensemble Modern and soloist Sarah Maria Sun conducted by HK Gruber. The new version has been created by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel in collaboration with the Kurt Weill Foundation and Schott Music.

The Brecht text is not a period piece. It is absolutely contemporary. In our day The Seven Deadly Sins is a manifesto against capitalism run amok, and it’s a dangerous piece – for the capitalists. Because it lays bare how the world works: if you are honest, you have to pay the price, here, during this life. It is even more timely than it was twenty or thirty years ago.  (HK Gruber)

The Seven Deadly Sins: An Iconic Work in a New Orchestration

Initiated by the Kurt Weill Foundation, the new orchestration of The Seven Deadly Sins will for the first time enable fully staged performances by smaller ensembles, theatres and dance companies. The work has received innumerable successful interpretations and the new version will open up further possibilities for creative productions in even more varied settings. The soprano soloist in Gruber and Muthspiel’s version is accompanied by a male vocal quartet and the following ensemble: 1(pic).0.2.1-

HK Gruber is regarded as a leading Weill expert, having frequently conducted, performed and recorded The Seven Deadly Sins and other works throughout his career. This new orchestration is characterised by its high level of fidelity to the original work, retaining Weill’s original keys and using the ensemble in innovative ways to match the characteristic timbres of the orchestral version.

Playing on double-standards that are placed on the sisters, Anna 1 and Anna 2, as they make their seven-year journey through different US cities, the highly ironic and satirical work features some of Weill’s most recognisable music. It incorporates numerous popular American musical styles including foxtrot, polka, and barbershop. Despite being sung in German, the work was a success at its premiere performance in 1933 in Paris where Weill was living in exile, and it received a UK premiere at the Savoy Theatre that same year.

photo: Staatstheater Stuttgart / Bernhard Weis