Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny

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Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny)

by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht

A political satirical opera.

The story is that three criminals (Leokadja Begbick, Trinity Moses and Fatty) create the city of Mahagonny. Drinking, gambling, prize-fights and similiar activities are the sole occupation of the inhabitants and money rules. There are only two main characters, Jenny, a prostitute, and Jim Mahoney, a lumberjack. In three acts Mahagonny is threatened by a hurricane at the end of act 1, and act 2 following the hurricane nothing is forbidden and various scenes of debauchery occur. Jenny and Jim try to leave but Jim cannot pay his debts and is arrested. Another character arraigned for murder, bribes his way out of it, but Jim has no money and is condemned to death for not paying for his whisky. The opera ends with discontent destroying the city, which burns as the inhabitants march away. All very allegorical.

The music uses a number of styles, including rag-time, jazz and formal counterpoint, notably in the Alabama Song (covered by The Doors).

It had it's premiere in Leipzig in March 1930 and played in Berlin in December of the following year. The opera was banned by the Nazis in 1933 and did not have a significant production until the 1960s. It has played in opera houses around the world. Never achieving the popularity of Weill and Brecht's Threepenny Opera, Mahagonny is still considered a work of stature with a haunting score.