“Mahogany” in the Wild West: Yiannis Houvardas stages a monumental political text at Lyriki - Wishevoke

“Mahogany” in the Wild West: Yiannis Houvardas stages a monumental political text at Lyriki

THREE CRIMINALS, They are being hunted by the authorities and are looking for a suitable place to hide from federal agents. They decide to build the city of abundance and prosperity in the middle of the desert. They dream of building a place of recreation where men can have fun. They call it Mahagonny, i.e. a city hunter, because, among other things, they plan to catch gold hunters who are looking for paradise on earth.

News of the creation of the intoxicating city spreads quickly. People are flocking from everywhere. Food, frills, alcohol, girls, cash, freedom. The city begins developing a plan. But how long can he be content with capitalist drunkenness? The local customers soon notice that the goods on offer do not bring them the happiness they longed for. The vibrations in the city of consumption, entertainment and pleasure leave no one untouched. Temptations begin to blur, violence poisons everything, baser human motives prevail, warring factions and strife set the dream on fire.

Yannis Houvardas, who this time chooses as his field of action a utopian world that thrives in the souls of those seduced by the American dream, builds a “golden city of our dreams that will turn into dust and soon disappear.” our eyes”. Through the epic, fantastic and completely constructed world of Brecht-Weil, the leading Greek theater director returns to the National Opera from April 12th with “The Rise and Fall of Mahogany City”.

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 20th-century masterpiece is a monumental political text that describes the rise and fall of a city of profit and pleasure and criticizes the capitalist system. Almost a hundred years after its premiere in Leipzig in 1930, this satire remains a symbol of exploitation and hedonism, which always ends in a fiery catastrophe. Just as the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God to punish the perfidy and immorality of their inhabitants, so Mahagonny, their modern version, will bring about the perfect punishment.

“That’s what fascinates me most about Mahogany, that it speaks about the future of all of us in a really poignant and extremely entertaining way. It even spares the Berlin Wall before and after its demolition until the end of humanity is spoken of in a grand, musically and lyrically dystopian, futuristic finale.

In his Mahogany, the former director of the National Theater attempts a political reading with moments of “outrage and despair” and looks for contemporary accusations and references to the present. In the streets of the city, set up in the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the National Opera, the pioneers of Texas command with the long-barreled revolvers and pistoleros of the Wild West. Delicate girls get up early in the drunken bars. Global capitalism rages and dances in spiked boots, but when it sings, it borrows the male voice of John Wayne. We spoke to Yiannis Houvardas about today’s “golden cities of our dreams”, capitalism, its connection to Brecht and the violence that rages in Greek homes. How a modern mahogany would be made today. “But such dreams have already come true. I’m talking about Las Vegas. A largely artificial city built and developed to meet the material needs of a predominantly male population who settled there en masse in the early 20th century to build the famous Hoover Dam and then settled with the help and Crimes developed under the patronage of big capitalists, but also leading figures in organized business. A masterful caricature of Las Vegas is Brecht and Weil’s mahogany conception. If, on the other hand, we are definitely looking for completely contemporary and (at least in words) more environmentally friendly examples, look no further than The Line, which is being built in the desert of Saudi Arabia.”

— How do you connect with Brecht?
Intellectually very narrow, ideologically not so much anymore. His dogmatic political-cultural theories have, in my opinion, been largely outdated or even assimilated beyond recognition by mainstream culture. However, they remain charming if translated more freely and creatively, which is now practiced worldwide and I will try to do this in lyrical performance. Of course, Brecht always remains a great writer and theater person, especially in his last, most complex creative period. And his life with Kurt Weill automatically becomes “milder” and makes overly harsh aspects of him more attractive, while at the same time giving him additional depth and dimension.

— You said that there is often a metaphor in your productions. Where will we meet them in this work?
Without going into details – I like to let the viewer explore the meaning of my performances for themselves – I would just like to say that in this case the work itself is the metaphor. A metaphor for the destructive and self-destructive energy of capitalism and the inherent utopia of the American dream.

— What is the prevailing feeling in a work that comments on our more humble sides?
Constant emotional fluctuations prevent you from dominating. What lies ahead is joy, euphoria, sadness, surprise, excitement, fear, anger, laughter, mental and emotional stimulation, perhaps many others that I can’t even predict as we decide where to seek refuge. .

— What is worse for you? The anger to seize power by any means possible, or the madness of a person who dreams of earthly paradises?
Certainly the first. The second step, although more painful for the dreamer in the long run, is not as intellectually dangerous as the first.

— Which of the two characters do you meet more often?
The second figure in my personal and professional life. By far the first in the social and political life that surrounds me – I think for all of us.

— Does the music multiply or smooth out the edges in such a work?
Sometimes the first, sometimes the second. It certainly helps to convey Brecht’s content, which is always sharper, more indirect and more entertaining. In Mahogany, in my opinion the ultimate collaboration between the two giants, the music is the magic key to making the spectator-listener fly from his place above the orchestra to the stage, along with the musicians, singers and actors, in a flight more absolute Magic.

— What, as you say, made the collaboration of these two giants so creative?
Above all, their pathological love for the shared vision, a theater free from the “slavery” of psychological realism. And of course the enormous respect they had for each other. Obviously they had their conflicts too. For example, with Mahogany, Brecht himself had the feeling at some point that the music had become too autonomous and had somehow gained the upper hand, which is why he distanced himself. But overall the two breathed together and the work of one brought out the work of the other.

— The Weimar period and what it left us is used today in a variety of ways, often to the point of being graphic. Why do we keep coming back to her?
Mahogany has no obvious references to its time, only indirect ones. It is a prophetic work, just like Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, which for me is the most important source of inspiration for the series. After all, the two works were created almost at the same time. That’s what fascinates me most about Mahogany, that it speaks about the future of us all in a truly poignant and extremely entertaining way. It even spares the Berlin Wall before and after its demolition until the end of humanity is spoken of in a grand, musically and lyrically dystopian, futuristic finale.

— The play describes the rise and fall of a city of profit and pleasure. What did Greek society suffer from most?
From reflecting political and social standards as narcissistic, selfish, insecure, lowly and dishonest.

The Rise and Fall of Mahogany City
Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht

April 12, 14, 19, 21, 23, 25, 2024
Stavros Niarchos Hall of the National Opera – SNFCC
Start: 7:30 p.m. (Sunday: 6:30 p.m.)

Musical director: Miltos Logiadis
Director: Yiannis Houvardas
Deputy Director: Emily Louisou
Playwright: Eri Kyrgia
Scenery: Eva Manidaki
Costumes: Ioanna Tsami
Lighting: Reinhart Traup
Video: Pantelis Makkas
Choir director: Agathangelos Georgakatos

Leocandia Begbic
Anna Agathonos
Christos Kehris
Moses Triada
Tasos Apostolou
Jenny Hill
Marisia Papalexiou
Jimmy Mahoney
Vassilis Kavagias
Giannis Kalivas
The invoice
Haris Andrianos
Giannis Giannisis
Giannis Kalivas
6 girls
Maria Mitsopoulou, Hera Zerva, Liudmila Botarenko, Antonia Despoulis, Barunka Preisinger, Magda Tzavella

With the orchestra and choir of the National Opera
LPS major donor: Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)


The article was published in LiFO-Print.

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