Oregon Symphony and Storm Large's Carnegie Hall gig, minus Carnegie Hall

05.02.13
Storm Large
The Oregonian

By David Stabler In a perfect world, the Oregon Symphony would be cranking up rehearsals for its Carnegie Hall concert next week. But with money scarce, the orchestra canceled its May 9 return to the Spring for Music festival, where it triumphed two years ago.

The cancellation hurts, but Portland and Seattle still get to hear the Carnegie Hall program. On Friday night, the "virtuoso Oregonians" buzz up Interstate 5 to perform for the first time in Seattle's Benaroya Hall. On Saturday and Sunday, they play the program in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

The program is notable for a couple of reasons: Storm Large takes her first classical spin with the orchestra, and the music is pretty cool.

Kurt Weill's sassy "The Seven Deadly Sins" will show off Large's acting as well as vocal skills. The 1933 "sung ballet" puts a sardonic twist on Christianity's septet of grievous sins with music of driving rhythms, prickly harmonies and unusual orchestrations that include accordion and banjo. A quartet of male singers joins her.

The plot involves a young woman, represented by the practical Anna I (originally sung by the great Lotte Lenya) and the flighty Anna II, who visit American cities to earn money for the family to build a house. In each city, Anna II succumbs to one of the sins and has to be reined in by sensible Anna I. To make their fortune, men are seduced, robbed, blackmailed and driven to suicide by the two Annas.

Brecht's message is clear: Capitalist ambition is the greatest deadly sin.

Other works include Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen's "Phenomenon," Arnold Schoenberg's "Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene," Franz Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony and Maurice Ravel's whirling "La valse."

For Large, her classical debut is a big deal. She answered some questions about it by email.

What was your first reaction when they asked you to do this concert?
Carlos called me while I was working in LA, so I was probably in my car, and I think I said something along the lines of, "ARE YOU (bad word) KIDDING ME??!!! YES! YES!!!"

Did you know the music?
Not a single measure, no.

What did you think when you listened to it? Heck no, or heck yeah?
More like ... "Hunh?" Then "Hunh." And now just "UNH!"

What's it like to sing?
Very odd ... it's a story, less singing, more illustrating. What's different about singing this compared with your usual music? Incredibly different. In my songs I always write a moment or two where I can bring some vocal wow or some inappropriate turn of phrase. Weill and Brecht are far more layered in metaphor and imagery. Very little room for vocal histrionics. The drama is more with the orchestral pieces and the story as a whole.

What's your favorite sin? In the piece, that is.
Surprisingly, Neid, (Envy). It's Weill at his scariest. I DIG IT. When Ana says, "Whereupon I told my poor, tired sister, when I saw how much she envied them ..." my blood starts pushing through me like I'm at a rock show.

OK, what's your favorite sin in real life?
Come over here and I will tell you quietly ... into the back of your neck.