Music by Kurt Weill; Libretto by Bertolt Brecht

KYNAN JOHNS, conductor; DONA D. VAUGHN, director

Wednesday, April 24, and Friday, April 26 at 7:30 PM and
Sunday, April 28 at 2:30 PM
in the School’s Borden Auditorium

The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater will be presenting Kurt Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (“The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”) set to a libretto by Bertolt Brecht for three performances on Wednesday, April 24 and Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, April 28 at 2:30 p.m. in the School’s Borden Auditorium. Kynan Johns will be conducting the MSM Opera Orchestra and the stage direction will be by Dona D. Vaughn. Beowulf Boritt joins the artistic team as scenic designer and Tracy Dorman as costume designer. Tyler Micoleau is the lighting designer and Rob Greene and Jared Janas will be designing the wigs, hair makeup.

Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny will be performed in German with English dialogue by Michael Feingold. This production is made possible by the Joseph F. McCrindle Endowment for Opera Productions at Manhattan School of Music and funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York.

An opening night Pre-Performance Talk with Gordon Ostrowski, assistant dean of opera studies and production will take place on Wednesday, April 24 at 6:00 p.m. in the School’s Greenfield Hall. This Pre-Performance Talk allows interested audience members the opportunity to hear directly from the production’s artistic team on the ins-and-outs of this production as well as hear a sampling of the evening’s music. This event is free and tickets are not required.

Kurt Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) is set to a German libretto by Bertolt Brecht. Weill’s score, composed when he was in his twenties, is a cornucopia of different musical styles – from jazz and ragtime to formal counterpoint. Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny is set in the fictional city Mahagonny, where pleasure and profit are the ultimate pursuits, and anyone can do whatever they desire. It was written as a political satire on American consumerism and Brecht’s libretto explores the “Do your own thing, with no limits to the extreme.”

Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny received its premiere on March 9, 1930 in Leipzig, Germany, following Weill and Brecht’s successful Threepenny Opera premiered in 1928. Mahagonny received its first Berlin performance in December 1931 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm conducted by Alexander von Zemlinsky. Lotte Lenya performed the role of Jenny, Trude Hesterberg was Begbick and Harald Paulsen sang the role of Jimmy. In 1933, the Nazis banned the opera and it wasn’t heard in a significant European production until 1963, when it was produced in London at Sadler’s Wells Opera conducted by Sir Colin Davis. A Berlin production followed in 1977, mounted by the Komische Oper.

In the late 1920’s, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny appeared as Mahagonny-Songspiel, a concert work composed for voices and small orchestra, commissioned by the Deutsche Kammermusik Festival in Baden-Baden. It was considered both a success and a scandal at its premiere on July 18, 1927. The ten numbers from this work (by Weill and Brecht) including “Alabama Song” and “Benares Song,” were all incorporated into the opera.

Mahagonny’s first U.S. performance took place in 1970, with an off-Broadway staging starring Barbara Harris as Jenny and Estelle Parsons as Begbick. In 1974, a fully staged version was performed by the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, and in November 1979, the Metropolitan Opera staged a production by John Dexter conducted by James Levine. The cast included Teresa Stratas as Jenny, Astrid Varnay as Begbick, Richard Cassilly as Jimmy, Cornell MacNeil as Moses, Ragnar Ulfung as Fatty and Paul Plishka as Joe. Other notable productions included the Los Angeles Opera Jonathan Miller production from 1989; in Florence by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentiono in June 1990; a 1998 production at the Salzburg Festival that featured Catherine Malfitano (Jenny), Gwyneth Jones(Begbick) and Jerry Hadley (Jimmy) followed in November 1998, by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The DVD for the Los Angeles Opera’s 2007 production directed by John Doyle and conducted by James Conlon with Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone and Anthony Dean Griffey was the winner of the 2009 Grammy Award for “Best Classical Album” and “Best Opera Recording.”


Leokadja Begbick
Raehann Bryce- Davis
Rachelle Pike
Jenny Hill   Amelia Berry   Cree Carrico
Peter Tinaglia
Jack Scott Ingham
Jim Mahoney Aaron Short  
Bill  Justin Brown Jason Cox 
Moses  Gideon Dabi James Ioelu
Joe Brett Harrison Vogel  
Toby Higgins Michael Papincak  

Men of Mahagonny
Marcos Cuevas, John Callison, Alexander Frankel, Kai Chen, Jody Hinkley, Kim Johansen, Alexander Lee, Cameron Johnson, Kurt Kanazawa, Mingjie Lei, Chad Sonka, Thomas Mulder, Hans Tashjian, Stephen Steffens, Yunpeng Wang

Ladies of Mahagonny
Kerstin Bauer, Ann Louise Glasser, Nan Li, Kathleen Spencer, Leela Subramaniam, Ellen Teufel

Off-stage chorus
Jimin Baik, Helena Brown, Emilie Bry, Casandra Caminiti, Lyndon England, Anna Farysej, Ilana Goldberg, Rebecca Krynski, Tesia Kwarteng, Haya Nasser, Elizabeth Novella, Odemaris Ortiz, Clarissa Parrish, Elena Perroni, Tamara Rusqué, Emily Stauffer


Debra Kinzler

Director of Public Relations,
Marketing and Publications,
Manhattan School of Music

917 493 4469

Full press release