BetteBack December 1, 1976: Bette Midler Decides To Work With George Balanchine Of The Ballet


Bette Midler, George Balanchine, Lotte Lenya, Seven Deadly Sins

“The Seven Deadly Sins” (German: Die sieben Todsünden, French: Les sept péchés capitaux) is a satirical ballet chanté (“sung ballet”) composed by Kurt Weill to a German libretto by Bertolt Brecht in 19331It consists of seven scenes (nine movements, including a Prologue and Epilogue)1.

The story follows two sisters, both named Anna, who embark on a seven-year journey through a fantasy version of seven different American cities. Each city symbolizes a twisted form of one of the Sins2.

This work was the last major collaboration between Weill and Brecht1It was composed during a time of tremendous political upheaval and turmoil in Europe, marking the end of Weill’s European career and the beginning of a nearly two-decade hiatus in Brecht’s3.

The ballet was commissioned by a wealthy Englishman named Edward James, whose Paris ballet troupe, Les Ballets 1933, counted the choreographer and dancer George Balanchine among its founders3The ballet premiered in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris on 7 June 19331The lead roles were played by Lotte Lenya (Anna I) and Tilly Losch (Anna II)1

In “The Seven Deadly Sins”, the two characters named Anna journey through seven different cities, each representing a different sin:

  1. Memphis – Pride: Anna accepts “entertainment people” over art1.
  1. Los Angeles – Wrath: Anna is chided to temper her anger against injustice1.
  1. Philadelphia – Gluttony1.
  1. Boston – Lust1.
  1. Baltimore – Covetousness1.
  1. San Francisco – Envy1.

Each city and its corresponding sin symbolize the challenges and moral dilemmas Anna faces during her journey. The ballet uses these symbolic representations to critique societal norms and expectations.

The Seven Deadly Sins” is composed of nine movements, including a Prologue and Epilogue. Here are some of the songs from the ballet:

  1. Prologue1
  2. Sloth (Faulheit)1
  3. Pride (Stolz)1
  4. Anger (Zorn)1
  5. Gluttony (Völlerei)1
  6. Lust (Unzucht)1
  7. Avarice2

Each song corresponds to a different scene in the ballet and reflects the sin that Anna encounters in each city on her journey. The music is characterized by its directness, which is a product of Weill’s ability to parody popular music as well as established musical forms3.

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