Major Operas | Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny by Kurt Weill | Modern Era

Rise and Fall of the city of Mahagonny

Composed: 1927–29
Premiered: 1930, Leipzig
Libretto by Bertolt Brecht

Act I

Leokadja Begbick, Trinity Moses and Fatty, all wanted by the police, found Mahagonny. They recruit men in search of whisky, gambling and women to join them in the ‘city of gold’. Jenny’s price, thirty bucks, is too much for Jack O’Brien but Jim Mahoney takes her for the night. Business is bad in Mahagonny and there is little to do. Begbick has to lower the price of whisky. Jim’s friends stop him leaving. Begbick imposes many repressive rules. Jim rebels against the conformity and quiet life. As a hurricane approaches Mahagonny the others accept his philosophy: ‘Do it!’

Act II

The hurricane swings away. Life is now based on food, love, boxing and drinking. Jack eats himself to death. The brothel is organized like a production line. Trinity Moses kills Alaska-Wolf Joe in the boxing ring. Jim is unable to pay for his round in the bar. He drunkenly imagines that he can sail away from there with Jenny and Bill. There is no escape. The only major crime in Mahagonny is not to pay your bills. Jim is arrested and his friends abandon him.


With Begbick as the judge even a murder charge can be bought off with a bribe, but Jim has nothing to counter the charges of singing an illegal song, causing Joe’s death, seducing Jenny and not paying for three bottles of whisky and a curtain rod. He is condemned to death. The people know they are already in hell. The city is in flames. Amid the turmoil four groups of demonstrators proclaim their beliefs, but nothing can help a dead man.

Personalities | Kurt Weill | Modern Era | Opera


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