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1926-1933: Rise to Fame


March: Begins composing the comic opera Na und? to a text by Felix Joachimsohn.

27 March: Premiere of one-act opera Der Protagonist. Dresden, Staatsoper: libretto by Georg Kaiser; directed by Josef Gielen; conducted by Fritz Busch. The work and production are widely hailed in the press; Weill’s musical stature in Germany increases sharply. Other performances soon follow in Nuremberg and Erfurt.

8 April: Weill writes to his parents of more successful productions of Der Protagonist: “The big operatic success of the season.”

June-July: Delayed honeymoon with Lenya in Italy and France, following their wedding in January. First they attend a performance of his Violin Concerto in Zurich at the fourth festival of the Société Internationale de Musique Contemporaine (violinist, Stefan Frenkel; conductor, Fritz Busch); then they vacation in Milan, Genoa, Verona, Alassio, and Cannes. After they return home, Weill wrote to Lenya: “I love the sound of your voice like a very force of nature . . . When I envelop myself in your voice, then you are with me in every way.”

1 September: Premiere of Weill’s first score composed for radio broadcast: incidental music for Grabbe’s play Herzog Theodor von Gothland. Now lost.


March: Begins composing the one-act opera Der Zar lässt sich photographieren, op. 21, to a libretto by Georg Kaiser.

2 March: Premiere of one-act opera Royal Palace, which includes the first use of (silent) film in an opera. The curtain-raiser is the premiere of Weill and Goll’s cantata Der neue Orpheus. Berlin, Staatsoper: libretto by Yvan Goll; directed by Franz-Ludwig Hörth; conducted by Erich Kleiber. Weill’s first opera premiere in Berlin takes place on his 27th birthday. The opera is unsuccessful, produced only once during Weill’s lifetime after the initial run.

Late March: Meets Bertolt Brecht. The two look for opportunities to collaborate and soon begin working on Brecht’s idea of a fictional American city known as Mahagonny. Weill has just published a favorable review of a radio performance of Brecht’s play Mann ist Mann.

April: Publisher Universal Edition rejects Weill’s two-act comic opera Na und? with libretto by his friend Felix Joachimsohn. Only sketches survive.

Late May: Weill takes his first airplane flight as he and Brecht travel to Essen to discuss a commission, which never materializes.

17 July: Premiere of Mahagonny: Ein Songspiel. Baden-Baden, German Chamber Music Festival: libretto by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; directed by Brecht and Walther Brügmann; conducted by Ernst Mehlich. “Songspiel,” a pun on the German word “Singspiel,” incorporates the English word “song” to create a new genre. This performance marks Lenya’s first appearance in a work by Weill. The other works on the program are Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse by Ernst Toch, Die Entführung der Europa by Darius Milhaud, and Hin und zurück by Paul Hindemith.

August: Visits Lenya in Prerow on the Baltic Sea.

29 October: Gustav III (October 1927, incidental music for the play by Strindberg). Theater in der Königgrätzer Straße, Berlin; Walter Goehr, conductor; Victor Barnowsky, director.

November: Universal Edition publishes Weill’s first piece of sheet music, “Alabama-Song,” from Mahagonny Songspiel.

23 November: Premiere of Weill’s setting of Brecht’s poem, “Vom Tod im Wald,” at the Berlin Philharmonic; Heinrich Hermanns, bass; Eugen Lang, conductor. This is the last of Weill’s works to bear an opus number (23).

14 December: First performance of “Ick sitze da un’ esse Klops,” also known as Klops-Lied (composed September 1925, text by Jean de Bourgois [pseudonym]). Private performance at the wedding of the head of Universal Edition, Emil Hertzka.


2 January: Weill is one of eight nominees to the Prussian Academy of Arts. He is not elected.

18 February: Premiere of one-act opera buffa Der Zar lässt sich photographieren. The opera incorporates Weill’s “Tango-Angèle,” pre-recorded and played on a gramophone to accompany the principal characters as they sing and dance. Leipzig, Neues Theater: libretto by Georg Kaiser; directed by Walther Brügmann; conducted by Gustav Brecher. It is produced in over 35 opera houses over the next two years, Weill’s most-performed work to date.

10 March: Premiere of Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England (incidental music for the play by Bertolt Brecht and Lion Feuchtwanger). Fragment survives.

8 April: Premiere of the play Konjunktur by Leo Lania, for which Weill composed stage music, including the song “Muschel von Margate” (text by Felix Gasbarra). Lessing Theater, Berlin; Erwin Piscator, director. Partly missing.

25 April: Premiere of Katalaunische Schlacht by Arnolt Bronnen, for which Weill composed incidental music. Staatliches Schauspielhaus, Berlin; Heinz Hilpert, director. Manuscript missing.

26 April: Weill and Brecht sign a contract with theatrical publisher Felix Bloch Erben for the musical work The Beggar’s Opera, later known as Die Dreigroschenoper.

May: Travels with Brecht to the Riviera; they work on the songs of Die Dreigroschenoper. Lenya and Brecht’s future wife, Helene Weigel, go with them.

9 June: Weill travels to Frankfurt to supervise rehearsals for a ZarProtagonist double bill.

31 August: Premiere of play with music Die Dreigroschenoper. Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm: text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; directed by Erich Engel; conducted by Theo Mackeben. A disastrous rehearsal period culminates in the greatest theatrical success of the Weimar Republic. Berlin is seized by “Dreigroschen-fever” and the work is soon performed all over the world. At Weill’s insistence, Universal Edition produces popular editions of the songs.

October: Weill and Lenya move to a better apartment at Berlin-Westend, Bayernalle 14 and buy a car on the strength of the success of Die Dreigroschenoper.

14 October: Berlin premiere of Der Protagonist and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren in a double bill at the Städtische Oper Berlin, directed by Walther Brügmann and conducted by Robert F. Denzler.

15 October: Opening of Berlin im Licht festival, for which Weill and several other composers have written music. The festival celebrates widespread gas and electric lighting throughout the city. Weill composes the song, “Berlin im Licht,” a setting of his own text, in a Military band version, premiered at Wittenbergplatz; Hermann Scherchen, conductor, and the song version, premiered October 16, 1928 at the Krolloper with singer Paul Graetz.

November-December: Composes Das Berliner Requiem, settings of poems by Brecht.

20 November: Premiere of Petroleuminseln by Lion Feuchtwanger, for which Weill composed songs and incidental music. Berlin Staatstheater; Jürgen Fehling, director.

15 December: Weill’s music for Quodlibet is used to accompany a screening of Lotte Reiniger’s film Doktor Dolittle und seine Tiere at the Alhambra theater in Berlin. Paul Dessau arranged music by Weill and Hindemith for the event and composed his own composition for one part of the film; he also conducted the Alhambra Movie Orchestra.


7 February: Premiere of Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, suite for wind orchestra from Die Dreigroschenoper created by Weill, conducted by Otto Klemperer in Berlin.

6 March: Supervises the first production of Die Dreigroschenoper in Vienna. In 1929, the work has 46 premieres in Germany as well as productions in Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Finland, and the USSR.

April-May: Composes the first version of Der Lindberghflug. Weill and Paul Hindemith each set roughly half of Brecht’s text. Weill hopes to form a touring troupe for the purposes of presenting Mahagonny Songspiel, Das Berliner Requiem, and Der Lindberghflug in a new form between concert and theater.

22 May: Premiere of Das Berliner Requiem, composed for radio broadcast. Frankfurter Sender: conducted by Ludwig Rottenberg. Weill’s settings of a group of poems by Brecht is intended as a protest against war and violence.

May-June: Vacations at Hostellerie de la Plage, St. Cyr sur Mer, France, and works on Happy End.

June: Hindemith’s Neues vom Tage, which draws Weill’s scorn, is staged at the Krolloper. Throughout the summer and fall, Weill and Universal Edition attempt to convince Klemperer and the Kroll to produce Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.

27 July: Der Lindberghflug (1929, original version with Paul Hindemith, text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann). Kurhaus, Baden-Baden, Frankfurt Radio Orchestra; Hermann Scherchen, conductor. Cantata celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight. Neither Weill nor Hindemith is pleased with the result. Weill has already decided to set the entire text himself.

September: Universal Edition publishes the Song Album, which contains six previously unpublished songs.

2 September: Premiere of play with music Happy End. Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm: book by Elisabeth Hauptmann; songs by Weill and Brecht; directed by Erich Engel; conducted by Theo Mackeben. Intended to recapture the magic of Die Dreigroschenoper, the work flops and is not revived until 1958, despite general praise for the songs. Universal Edition does not publish a vocal score.

early October: Weill considers writing songs for “Apollo-Brunnenstrasse,” a play by Stefan Grossmann with lyrics by Franz Hessel. Hans Heinsheimer of Universal Edition discourages him, and Weill drops the project.

November: “Die Legende vom toten Soldaten” and “Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen” (1929, texts by Bertolt Brecht). Berliner Schubertchor; Karl Rankl, conductor. (“Zu Potsdam unter den Eichen” is arranged from the original version written for Das Berliner Requiem.)

December: Weill attempts to get the rights to Jaroslav Hasek’s novel Good Soldier Schweik to set as an opera with a libretto by Brecht. Difficulties in dealing with Hasek’s heirs doom the project; by June 1930 Weill has given up the idea.

5 December: Premiere of Der Lindberghflug composed solely by Weill at the Krolloper in Berlin, conducted by Otto Klemperer. Sometimes known as Der Ozeanflug.


February 1930: Travels to Leipzig two weeks prior to the premiere of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. Lenya records two songs from the opera for Ultraphon, conducted by Theo Mackeben.

March 1930: The Deutsches Theater, run by Max Reinhardt, takes an option on Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny to give the first Berlin performance. Despite Weill’s high hopes, it becomes clear by the end of October that the opera will not be performed there.

9 March: Premiere of three-act opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, sometimes known as an “epic opera.” Leipzig, Neues Theater: libretto by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; directed by Walther Brügmann; conducted by Gustav Brecher. The first performance is disrupted by Nazi demonstrators and ends in a near-riot. It receives several productions in Germany before 1933, but many opera houses avoid it because of the growing power of the Nazi party.

28 March: U.S. premiere of Weill’s Violin Concerto by the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Fritz Reiner with Emil Heermann as soloist.

April: Universal Edition publishes “Sieben Stücke nach der Dreigroschenoper,” arranged for violin and piano by Stefan Frenkel. Weill presents a Mahagonny radio program in Berlin.

23 June: Premiere of two-act “school opera” Der Jasager. The work is first heard as a radio broadcast, with the stage premiere the following day in Berlin at the Zentralinstitut für Erziehung und Unterricht: libretto by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; conducted by Kurt Drabek. After the Festival for New Music rejects Brecht and Eisler’s Die Massnahme, Weill withdraws Der Jasager in protest. It is premiered independently of the Festival as a “counter-event.” Weill’s opera, designed to be performed by secondary-school students, is given in over 300 German schools before March 1933.

21 July: Travels to London and stays at the Bushy Hall Hotel; the reason for this visit is unknown.

26 July: Travels to Unterschondorf (Ammersee) to work with Brecht, possibly on the film version of Die Dreigroschenoper.

August 1930: Begins work on an opera, Die Bürgschaft, with Caspar Neher, longtime friend of Brecht and leading set designer. Weill and Neher met through Brecht in 1927 and developed an independent friendship. By 1930, political, esthetic, and personal differences have placed a strain on Weill and Brecht’s relations. Weill is also considering settings of Jack London and an opera based upon an unspecified work by Franz Kafka around this time.

Autumn: Der Jasager “Neue Fassung.” Two new interpolations are included in a performance at the Karl-Marx School, Berlin-Neukölln.

October: The Frankfurt performances of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny are accompanied by Nazi disturbances.

17 October: Weill and Brecht file lawsuits against Nero-Tobis Film, which is producing a film version of Die Dreigroschenoper, over breaches of contract. Weill claims that Nero-Tobis has violated a contractual obligation to give him control over the music in the film. The court rules in his favor; he is awarded damages and signs a new contract. Brecht’s complaint is rejected but the film company settles with him anyway.

December: Some members of the original cast (Kurt Gerron, Erich Ponto, Lenya, and the Lewis Ruth Band conducted by Theo Mackeben) record fourteen songs from Die Dreigroschenoper. Despite the fact that they were made over two years after the premiere and involved several new performers, these recordings have frequently been miscalled original cast recordings.


6 February: Mann ist Mann by Bertolt Brecht, for which Weill composed incidental music. Berlin Staatstheater; Brecht and Ernst Legal, directors. Music partly missing.

mid-February: Spends a couple of weeks at the Hotel und Terrassen Wang, Brückenberg-Riesengebirge to recuperate after the end of the settlement of his lawsuit with Nero-Tobis.

19 February: Premiere of German version of G.W. Pabst’s film, Die 3Groschenoper. A parallel French version is created at the same time.

April: Considers a large-scale choral composition for David Joseph Ball, pioneer of the Austrian Workers’ Music movement. He considers a piece inspired by Jack London’s General Strike, and proposes a collaboration with Brecht. Lack of time and quarrels with Brecht put an end to the project.

4 April: U.S. premiere of Der Lindberghflug by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski.

May-June: Vacations with Lenya at the Provence Hotel, Le Lavandou, France. They travel by car through Spain, meeting Caspar Neher for ten days in Zaraux (near San Sebastian) for work on Die Bürgschaft. Returning to Berlin via Paris, they stay at the Hotel Astor. Weill, concerned by the worsening political situation, opens a Swiss bank account.

Summer: As work continues on Die Bürgschaft, Weill begins a prolonged affair with Caspar Neher’s wife, Erika while Lenya travels to the Soviet Union to work on a film. Weill and Lenya have begun growing apart.

October: Buys a house as a birthday present for Lenya at Wissmannstraße 7 (now called Käthe-Kollwitz-Straße) in Kleinmachnow, an area in southwest Berlin. Finishes orchestrating Die Bürgschaft.

17 November: Premiere of song, “Das Lied vom blinden Mädchen” with lyrics by Günther Weisenborn. Performed by Lenya, the song forms part of a left-wing revue at the Volksbühne in Berlin. The manuscript then disappears for nearly 80 years before it is rediscovered in a Berlin library in 2017.

21 December: Berlin premiere of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, the beginning of a continuous two-month run. Weill has recomposed some passages to accommodate a non-operatic cast that includes Lenya as Jenny. Weill and Brecht break up definitively during rehearsals.


January: Electrola records “Querschnitt aus der Oper Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny” conducted by Hans Sommer.

11 January: Karl Kraus presents a lecture about Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny as part of his series “Theater der Dichtung.” Weill plays excerpts on the piano.

10 March: Premiere of three-act opera Die Bürgschaft. Berlin, Städtische Oper: libretto by Caspar Neher; directed by Carl Ebert; conducted by Fritz Stiedry. Die Bürgschaft marks Weill’s liberation from Brechtian constraints, and he composes a powerful, full-bodied opera score. Musically, it combines echoes of Verdi and Baroque music with Weill’s innovations of the last few years. The opera premieres in the spotlight of direct political attack from the Nationalist and Nazi press. Weill’s most ambitious work to date, it becomes a rallying point for the remaining defenders of the Republic’s artistic freedom.

March: Moves into the new house in Kleinmachnow, a neighborhood in western Berlin, just after the premiere of Die Bürgschaft. Lenya and Weill are now estranged, but Weill registers the deed in Lenya’s name.

April-May: Discusses with Caspar Neher and Universal Edition three project ideas: a cantata for workers’ choirs, a new genre of operas for amateurs, and small-scale operas without chorus for commercial theaters.

26 April: Viennese premiere of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny in a heavily abridged version. Lenya falls for a fellow cast member, Otto Pasetti, and abandons Weill for him.

June: Proposes four projects to impresario and director Erik Charell for a series of international productions intended for Vienna, Paris, London, and Berlin. The plan, which eventually involved Caspar Neher and Georg Kaiser, never materialized.

August: Begins composing Der Silbersee to a text by Georg Kaiser.

7 November 1932: Writes to Universal Edition that he has received a commission from the princesse de Polignac in Paris to compose an orchestral work.

11 December: Weill is fêted in Paris at a performance of Mahagonny Songspiel (with four numbers added from Aufstieg) and Der Jasager at the Salle Gaveau, conducted by Maurice Abravanel with Lenya and Pasetti in the cast of Mahagonny. He meets the art patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles and many other leading lights of Paris musical society, and investigates further commissions while in Paris.


January: Lenya begins divorce proceedings.

9 January: Weill receives an offer from Tobis to write a score for a film version of Hans Fallada’s novel Kleiner Mann – was nun?. He pursues the opportunity, but it is withdrawn for fear of Nazi pressure.

January: Composes the first movement of Fantaisie symphonique (Symphony no. 2) in response to the princesse de Polignac’s commission.

18 February: Premiere of play with music Der Silbersee. Leipzig, Altes Theater: text by Georg Kaiser; directed by Detlef Sierck; conducted by Gustav Brecher. The work opens on the same day in Magdeburg and Erfurt. The ascendant Nazi government forces the play to close on all three stages within three weeks.

22 February: The Nazis demonstrate at the second performance of Der Silbersee in Magdeburg, and Weill is subjected to anti-Semitic attacks. He is also asked to resign from the Kleiner Mann – was nun? film project.

4 March: The last public performance of any work by Weill (Der Silbersee) in Germany until 1945. In early March Lenya and Louise Hartung pack some of Weill’s belongings from the house on Wissmannstraße and drive Weill to Munich to await the outcome of the 5 March elections. Lenya proceeds to Vienna, and Weill returns to Berlin, where he presumably first stays in a hotel in Charlottenburg and then moves to the Nehers’ house.

21 March: Weill departs Germany for France, not knowing when he might return. He is alerted by someone with knowledge of Nazi plans that he is in danger of arrest. Caspar and Erika Neher drive him via Luxembourg to Paris, where they arrive on 23 March (they cross the French border at Longlaville on 22 March). Weill would never set foot in Germany again.


Up Next: Exile and Frustration (1933 – 1941)

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