I've long been a fan of the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht opera "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny." In particular, I love the mid-1950s recording featuring Weill's wife Lotte Lenya in the lead role of Jenny. And I've always felt that this musical opus--a radical conjunction of opera, jazz, musical theater and political agit-prop--is best served by actors who sing rather than singers who act. Lenya's unorthodox vocals, simultaneously harsh and tender, fits this work to a T, especially since the musical numbers are closer to popular song than traditional operatic arias. Like Weill and Brecht's "Threepenny Opera," "Mahagonny" is a fierce critique of capitalism conveyed in irresistible, jazzy melodies. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I approached this DVD of a live 2007 performance of "Mahagonny" by the Los Angeles Opera starring noted singers Patti Lupone and Audra McDonald. This new production follows the storyline closely, but adopts a chronological progression that brings the action into the present in an attempt to make the work more relevant and accessible to modern audiences. I found this a little jarring at first, then decided it simply provided another level of aesthetic disconnection that's perfectly in tune with Brecht's famous alienation effect (i.e., self-consciously stressing the formal artificiality of a work so that audiences can engage more directly with its content). The staging, costumes and sets are impressive, and the performances suitably stylized and impassioned. Lupone is excellent as the amoral brothel owner whose vision of greed inspires the rise of the city of Mahagonny. As the prostitute Jenny, McDonald adroitly blends eroticism, tenderness and mercenary self-interest. The male performers are less vibrant, with the exception of Anthony Dean Griffey as Jimmy, the opera's sacrificial lamb who pays the ultimate price for having committed the ultimate crime: poverty. The musical arrangements of Weill's tunes are perhaps the production's weakest element, lacking the brio and emotional shading necessary to make the numbers truly come alive. And having the songs sung in English, while understandable, lessens the sardonic character of the German version. These criticisms aside, the performance captured on this DVD is an ambitious and welcome variation of this timeworn classic, one whose many positives make up for its few imperfections.