For the first time since 1925, Kurt Weill’s Zaubernacht (“Magic Night”) comes to New York City in an entirely new production by Jody Oberfelder Projects with music provided by the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra led by Gary S. Fagin. Oberfelder has created a new scenario for the work: “Told through the lens of a child, I’ve devised a fresh fairy tale of overcoming darkness, developing resilience, and finding one’s place in the world.” Her vision preserves the basic device of the original–toys coming to life and interacting with children–and reimagines it for a contemporary audience. (The original scenario has not survived, giving directors freedom to develop their own.) Fagin’s engagement with Weill stretches back to the 1970s; recently, he served as music director for the Atlantic Theatre production of The Threepenny Opera directed by Martha Clarke.
Zaubernacht has taken a more convoluted path to the stage than most works. First performed in Berlin in 1922 and brought to New York in 1925, where it was choreographed by Michio Ito, the full score of the ballet-pantomime for children was lost, and the music was known only through an incomplete piano score. In 2005, librarians at Yale University discovered a complete set of original instrumental parts that had been donated fifty years earlier and placed in a safe that was then moved to the basement and forgotten. Within a year, the staff of the Kurt Weill Edition was hard at work recreating Weill’s chamber score for an ensemble of nine players from the newly found parts; the new edition was published in 2008, making possible the rediscovery of this mysterious piece. Several performances have taken place since then; a recording is also available.
Preview article in the New York Times (Joshua Barone)
Press release (broadwayworld.com)
Facebook page for production
Learn more about Zaubernacht
Cast, from left: Emily Giovine, Maya Orchin, Lou Mandolini, Mary Madsen, Lyla Forest Butler (in foreground), Pierre Guilbault, Mei Yamanaka, Ned Malouf, Hannah Wendel. Photo: Eric Siegel