In 1922, before he made his reputation with a series of works for the musical theater, young composer Kurt Weill took on a commission to write music for a ballet-pantomime for children that premiered in Berlin and was revived three years later in New York. After that, the work was largely forgotten, just a title on a works list. Part of the reason it was forgotten was that the score and parts were lost; the only surviving material was Weill’s manuscript piano score, which gave tantalizing hints about the scenario and orchestration, but was not enough to revive the work. Fast forward to 2005, when librarians at Yale University opened a long-forgotten safe in the basement and discovered a full set of parts that had been used for both the Berlin and New York performances eighty years before.
The discovery enabled Kurt Weill Edition managing editor Elmar Juchem and Andrew Kuster to reconstruct a complete performing version of Weill’s original orchestral score. The new edition has been performed with acclaim in Stuttgart (world premiere), Dessau, London, and last summer at the Ravinia Festival. Choreographers and audiences alike love the piece, and it is quickly entering the repertory. More than one critic has deemed it a crowd-pleasing replacement for that Christmas warhorse, the Nutcracker.
Now a fine new recording of Zaubernacht by the Arte Ensemble, with soprano soloist Ania Vegry, is out on the German label CPO. Producers, choreographers, and fans can hear for themselves why leading dance critic Horst Koegler praised its “joyous, effective melodies . . . It is marvelously orchestrated, transparent, and certainly eminently danceable.”
Kurt Weill Newsletter feature on the discovery of Zaubernacht instrumental parts
Learn more about Zaubernacht