“This volume presents, for the first time in full score, a work whose significance in the oeuvre and artistic evolution of Kurt Weill can scarcely be overstated. This first collaboration between Weill and Bertolt Brecht would achieve epochal importance in the genre of opera (and music theater in general); it led Weill to form his signature ‘Song style,’ which would exercise a stylistically formative impact on the music of the Weimar Republic; it brought about a musical breakthrough for Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya, whose performance inaugurated a new species of singer-actor; and it represents Brecht’s debut as a stage director in the domain of musical theater.” These lightly abridged opening sentences from editor Giselher Schubert’s introduction to the new critical edition of the Songspiel pretty well sum up its importance, without even touching on the work’s position as a “study” for one of the most popular operas of the twentieth century, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, or the essential role of designer Caspar Neher, whose contributions to set and costume design in Weimar theater rival those of Weill and Brecht to music and text.
All that may seem like a lot of weight to carry for a half-hour work that was dashed off in less than a month and for which a new genre, the “Songspiel,” had to be invented. But Schubert’s extensive research and meticulous editorial work leave no doubt that the piece did lead to dramatic changes in music and theater first in Germany and then the world. And it’s all presented here: a thorough critical and historical essay, color facsimiles of significant source material, detailed notes on the editorial work and descriptions of manuscripts and other essential sources, and the score itself, complete, lovingly engraved and laid out on large, easy-to-read pages.
Mahagonny: Ein Songspiel (Series I, volume 3) represents the tenth volume to appear of the Kurt Weill Edition, a long-term project devoted to preparing new critical editions of Weill’s works that are also suitable for performers. In fact, the score and instrumental and vocal parts of the Songspiel were tested for playability and accuracy in two separate stagings of the work before publication. The new materials are now available for use in all future productions of Mahagonny Songspiel.
Giselher Schubert, former director of the Hindemith-Institut in Frankfurt, has published extensively on Hindemith, Weill, Schoenberg, and the music of the Weimar Republic. He serves on the Editorial Board of the Kurt Weill Edition.
Kurt Weill Edition (Series I, Volume 3): Mahagonny Songspiel, ed. Giselher Schubert (New York: Kurt Weill Foundation for Music / European American Music Corporation, 2016). Main Volume: 182 pp.; Critical Report: 59 pp. ISBN: 978-1-62721-900-6. Sales Price: $340 ($250 for subscribers). Order no. KWE 1003.