Opera Scotland

Mahagonny Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny; Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Music

Kurt Weill (born Dessau, 2 March 1900; died New York, 3 April 1950)

Text

Bertolt Brecht

Source

Original

 

Premieres

First performance: Leipzig (Neues Theater), 9 March 1930.

First UK performance: London (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), 16 January 1963.

First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 5 March 1986.

Scottish Opera première: As above.

 

Background

In recent years it has become possible to gain an acquaintance with some of the later pieces from Weill’s residence in the USA, of which the ‘Broadway opera’ Street Scene is an outstanding example. The effect of this development seems to have been a reduction in the number of performances of his earlier works, composed largely in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, of which Mahagonny is the most ambitious. Its predecessor, the Threepenny Opera, and its successor, the Seven Deadly Sins, seem to have appeared with reduced frequency recently. Mahagonny, in 1986, was a collaboration with Opera North in the twentieth century masters series, and was Scottish Opera’s first experience of mounting a piece by Weill. It was followed by Street Scene (1989) and the Threepenny Opera (1990).

 

Main Characters

Fatty, the book-keeper (tenor)

Trinity Moses (baritone)

Leocadia Begbick, a widow (mezzo-soprano)

Jenny Smith (soprano)

Jim Mahoney, a lumberjack (tenor)

Bank Account Bill, a lumberjack (baritone)

 

Plot Summary

Three criminals on the run, Fatty, Trinity Moses and Begbick, break down in the desert. Begbick decides that this wilderness would be a good place to establish a city where they can continue their criminal ways. Some girls arrive, led by Jenny, and a further group of people dissatisfied with life in the established cities. There are also four simple lumberjacks from Alaska, led by Jimmy Mahoney. Offered their choice of the girls, Jimmy promptly buys Jenny. When the local economy stalls he decides to leave, but the other lumberjacks persuade him to stay. He advocates that the people embrace complete freedom of behaviour. When they are spared from destruction by a passing typhoon, the people follow his advice, and follow a life of gluttony, lechery, fighting and drinking, at the end of which two of the lumberjacks are dead and Jimmy is imprisoned for debt. His last friend refuses him a loan with which to bribe the judges, and he is duly sentenced to death. Before his execution, he maintains that he has no regrets, and that life is for enjoying. He passes Jenny on to Bill, the last surviving lumberjack. At the end, the populace complain that their way of life is being brought to an end by inflation.

The Cast

Alaska Wolf Joe
 a lumberjack
Bank Account Bill
 a lumberjack
Fatty
 the book-keeper
Jacob Schmidt
 a lumberjack
Jenny Hill
 
Jimmy Mahoney
 a lunberjack
Leokadja Begbick
 a widow
Narrator
 
Toby Higgins
 
Trinity Moses
 

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