March 13 2013 12:00 AM

This weekend, the MSU Opera Theatre will preform a unique blend of classic opera and musical theater, and getting a little darker than operas usually go.

“It’s set in a post-9/11 America where terrorism has infected daily life,” said Melanie Helton, director of opera and theater at MSU. “The government evaluates citizens to decide who’s safe and who’s not.” 

The experimental piece is based on German composer Kurt Weill’s “Mahagonny Songspiel,” but includes songs from his other works, including “Happy End,” “Knickerbocker Holiday” and “The Threepenny Opera.” “Songspiel” was written as a comment on the decline of social classes in the 1920s, but the storyline and the songs are left widely open to interpretation. 

Helton said the story has been improvised by the students — who created their own dialogue and character names — and continues to evolve throughout the rehearsal process. To Helton’s knowledge, nothing like this has ever been created at MSU or anywhere else. 

Even the project’s origins are unique. The theater Helton usually utilizes is under construction, giving her the opportunity to go off-campus. She settled on the MSU Community Music School Auditorium, built in the 1970s, to create a feeling of regression from the current political and social landscape. 

“The thing we discovered is that, in the midst of hardship, people still deal with happiness, relationships and love,” she said. “People still go on living their lives.” 

“Kurt Weill: 2012, But the days grow short … ”
MSU Opera Theatre
Oct. 19-21
MSU Community Music School Auditorium
841 Timberlane St.
East Lansing
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m.  Sunday
$20 general/$18 seniors/$5 students