Los Angeles Music Preview: STORM LARGE SINGS THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra)

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by Tony Frankel on January 20, 2017

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


You think the winter storms slamming So Cal are something? Well, singer, songwriter, raconteur, author, actor, playwright, and powerhouse performer Storm Large is joining Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for a rare performance of The Seven Deadly Sins–and they’re coming to the L.A. area for two shows this weekend only, January 20 & 21.

Die sieben Todsünden, which Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill wrote after they fled Nazi Germany, is an excoriating assault on capitalist morality. It was conceived as a satirical ballet chanté (literally, a “sung ballet”) and first commissioned by Boris Kochno and George Balanchine in 1933. There is basically one character, that of Anna, who travels to seven different cities to seek her fortune, but she encounters a deadly sin in each (the scenario of the libretto mirrors Brecht’s own travels, expanded to one-year sojourns in each of seven cities). There will be no dancer at LACO, but the music, which includes a male quartet known as “The Family,” will have you spellbound; it truly is one of Weill’s best scores.

There were a few performances in the early Thirties, but the work, the final collaboration of the men who gave us Three Penny Opera, had been largely forgotten until Balanchine revived it in 1958.

In that year, W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman wrote a beautiful English translation of this stunning Weill-Brecht piece. It was originally performed at the New York City Ballet in December of that year starring Lotte Lenya, the greatest interpreter of Kurt Weill. Lenya, who married, divorced, and re-married Weill—staying with him until his death in 1950—was the original interpreter of the role in 1933. She learned to sing it in English phonetically for the revival, but made a glorious recording of the piece in German. The smooth English translation from the 1950s was never recorded until Marianne Faithfull decided it was high time in 1997. Hudson Shad, the amazing vocal quartet that has performed Seven Deadly Sins more than any other group (including with Faithfull), will accompany Ms. Large, who will be singing the 9-movement song cycle in a lower version in English.

As for Madam Large: How does one describe this uniquely original chanteuse? It’s as if there was some huge female orgy with the likes of Frances Faye, Rusty Warren, Peggy Lee, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, Amy Winehouse, Bette Midler, a wisecracking film noir gun moll, and a Madam of the friendliest Chicken Ranch on the planet — and they had this love child.

She is as comfortable at the Hollywood Bowl (I saw her sing with the band Pink Martini) as she is at the tiny Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena (just having her all up in my face there made me feel fourteen again—I stained the seat like someone carving initials in a tree). She has sung with the National Symphony Orchestra, k.d. lang, classical pianist Kirill Gerstein, punk rocker John Doe, singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer George Clinton. She is truly a Renaissance Woman. (And who remembers her from Harps and Angels, the 2010 Mark Taper Forum musical featuring the work of Randy Newman?)

Led by Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, Act I of the evening’s program will include the U.S. premiere of Kurt Weill’s Song-Suite for Violin and Orchestra, arranged by Paul Bateman, and the West Coast Premiere of Bruce Adolphe’s Violin Concerto I Will Not Remain Silent, which is dedicated to Rabbi Joachim Prinz and his friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both works feature guest violin soloist Daniel Hope.

photos by Laura Domela

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Jeffrey Kahane Conductor
Daniel Hope Violin
Storm Large Vocalist
Hudson Shad Vocal quartet

Weill (arr. Bateman) Suite for Violin and Orchestra (US premiere)
Bruce Adolphe Violin Concerto, I Will Not Remain Silent (West Coast premiere)
Weill The Seven Deadly Sins

Saturday, January 21, 2017, at 8
Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand Blvd. in Glendale
Sunday, January 22, 2017, at 7
Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive at UCLA
for tickets, call 213.622.7001 x 1, or visit LACO

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