Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook is a new music theatre production featuring internationally-renowned baritone Russell Braun portraying the life of Hanns Eisler, one of Europe’s most gifted mid-century composers. A Jewish Marxist born in Austria, Eisler fled Nazi Germany in 1933, eventually settling in Hollywood where he would go on to be nominated for two Academy Awards for his film compositions. At the beginning of the Cold War, a decade after he migrated to the United States, Eisler was blacklisted by Hollywood film executives, labelled an “unperson” by the House for Un-American Activities Committee and exiled from the United States. He returned to East Germany where he was initially revered, writing the new country’s national anthem but, growing increasingly disillusioned, he retreated into silence.
During the 1940s, Eisler achieved great success in Hollywood, composing music for many films, including the Academy Award-nominated scores for Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die and Clifford Odets’s None but the Lonely Heart. In private he wrote Hollywood Songbook, a brilliantly evocative song cycle full of anger, melancholy and wit with many of the songs using poems written by his friend and frequent collaborator Bertolt Brecht. The songs speak of the horrors of Nazi Germany, the appalling seduction of Hollywood and a deep longing to return home to a better future in post-war Europe. Hollywood Songbook helped to establish Eisler’s reputation as one of the 20th century’s great lieder composers.
Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook portrays a day in the life of Eisler, from his arrival in Hollywood to his death in East Germany using the songs of Hollywood Songbook to weave the story together.
The production’s creative team is led by acclaimed director Tim Albery, who devised the show’s original concept. The award winning Michael Levine, one of Canada’s most internationally lauded theatre and opera designers, sets the scene and provides the vision for Eisler’s world. Lending his voice to the story is operatic powerhouse Russell Braun accompanied by Juno Award-winning pianist Serouj Kradjian. Braun, known for his luminous voice, is a familiar face in opera houses around the world for his melodic and compelling portrayals of many of the great operatic roles including Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin and Werther. Canadian pianist and composer Kradjian has established himself as a versatile, groundbreaking artist with a “fiery temperament and elegant sound…with technique to burn” (Frankfurter Allgemeine).