After eighty years of obscurity, Kurt Weill’s first stage work is available again. Based on an original set of instrumental parts discovered at Yale University in 2006, the Kurt Weill Edition is releasing a critical edition of Zaubernacht. Weill (1900-1950) composed this children’s pantomime in 1922, while he was a member of Ferruccio Busoni’s master class in composition in Berlin. Based on a scenario by Wladimir Boritsch (1891-1954), an elusive writer and impresario from Russia, the pantomime received its world premiere on 18 November 1922 at Berlin’s Theater am Kurfürstendamm. The work’s only other production occurred at New York City’s Garrick Theatre in December 1925, after which the orchestration disappeared.
Weill left the orchestral score behind when he fled Nazi Germany in March 1933. Boritsch had taken the instrumental parts to the United States when he prepared the Garrick Theatre’s production. After his death in 1954, his widow deposited the parts at Yale University, but the accession process was left incomplete due to a curator’s illness and a librarian who deposited the materials in the wrong safe. In the 1960s, the safe, presumed empty, was moved to a basement, where it was soon forgotten. Two years ago, staff members at Yale discovered the safe, but a locksmith had to be called in because the combination was long lost. When opened, the safe revealed its sensational contents.
Zaubernacht is an hour-long stage work scored for an imaginative nine-piece ensemble consisting of flute, bassoon, percussion, piano and five string players. The plot involves two children falling asleep in their bedroom. At midnight a Toy Fairy appears and awakens all the toys with her song, and the action unfolds from there, as the toys interact with the dreaming children in a series of follies and dances.
Edited by Elmar Juchem, Managing Editor of the Kurt Weill Edition, and Andrew Kuster, a staff member of the Kurt Weill Foundation, the publication of Zaubernacht closes a major gap in Weill’s oeuvre that ultimately comprised more than thirty stage works, including operas, operettas and musical comedies. Juchem’s introductory essay offers a host of new insights into this poorly documented phase of Weill’s early career. Weill’s only other genuine dance piece is the ballet-chanté The Seven Deadly Sins (1933). The next volumes in the Kurt Weill Edition, currently in production, are: Popular Adaptations, 1927-1950, edited by Charles Hamm; and Music with Solo Violin (Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra, op. 12, and Der neue Orpheus, op. 16), edited by Andreas Eichhorn.
Kurt Weill. Zaubernacht. Edited by Elmar Juchem and Andrew Kuster (New York: Kurt Weill Foundation for Music; European American Music Corporation, 2008). Full score volume and critical report volume. ISBN 978-0-913574-65-2
For further information contact the Kurt Weill Foundation:
phone: (212) 505-5240