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Zaubernacht (1922)

It was a sensation when Weill's original orchestration for Zaubernacht--lost for 80 years--surfaced in 2006. New performing materials are now available, based on a critical edition of Weill's original score.

Children's pantomime for solo soprano and chamber orchestra.

Performance Information
Audio files
Press Clippings

Performance Information

English title: Magic night.
Orchestra: fl/picc, bsn; piano, perc; string quintet: vn I, vn II, va, vc, cb.
Duration: 60 minutes
Critical Edition: Kurt Weill Edition, Series I, Volume 0 (full score)
Performance Materials: All territories: EAMC
First production: November 18, 1922, Berlin, Franz Ludwig Hörth, dir., George Weller, cond., Mary Zimmermann, chor. (scenario by Wladimir Boritsch)
First U.S. production: December 27, 1925, New York, Wladimir Boritsch, dir., Lazar Weiner, cond., Michio Ito, chor.

Guide to orchestration, territory abbreviations, and publishers' symbols.


The original scenario survives only in skeletal form, but the following will serve as a general guide:

The story begins in the bedroom of a brother and sister after their mother has left for the night. At midnight, the Toy Fairy appears and sings the “Lied der Fee” (Fairy’s Song), which brings all the children’s toys to life. The children awaken, or perhaps dream, and begin to interact with the toys--sometimes in pleasant or humorous ways, sometimes in more frightening ways. After a number of encounters with different toys, the children must contend with characters stepping out of a book of fairy tales, including a witch. When the clock strikes six, the toys and books revert to their inanimate state as the adults return. Directors and choreographers are encouraged to create their own scenarios that are appropriate to the music.

Audio Files

Excerpts from the following sections:

Lied der Fee
The Kitchen Stove Enters
The Children Awaken
The Doll's Theme
The Tumbler
Dance (Allegro Molto)
A Witch Enters
Return to Normal at Dawn


777 767-2
Arte Ensemble, Ania Vegry, soprano


NOTE: Weill's original score supersedes an arrangement created by British orchestrator Meirion Bowen in the late 1990s. Bowen's arrangement was based on sparse cues found in Weill's autograph piano score, so certainty about the original performing forces was impossible; Bowen added clarinet and harp but omitted the contrabass. His arrangement premiered on June 1, 2000, in Cologne; the first staged performance took place in Dessau in 2003 (directed by Milan Sládek). A recording was released on the Capriccio label in 2003 (Capriccio 67 011). As of 2006, Bowen's version is no longer available for performance.

Press Clippings

"Vastly entertaining . . . Weill's music, its joyous, infectious melodies and sprightly bounces . . . is marvelously orchestrated, transparent, even lucid, and certainly eminently danceable, with its jaunty rhythms . . . Definitely recommended for replacing the hackneyed Nutcracker routine!"
--Tanznetz, 2010

"As inventive and charming as it can possibly be . . . Extremely delightful."
--The Telegraph, 2011

"Of all the things you might expect from Kurt Weill, enchanted toys are low on the list . . . . The score is downright sweet . . . Magical Night is a gentle performance, with . . . delightful freshness and warmth."
--The Independent, 2011

"A score which, in its dissonant and haunting melodies, provides a great alternative to the sugary treats of Tchaikovsky . . .  A new, slicker Nutcracker for a Toy Story generation . . . The mixture of Weill and fairytale offers something for adults and children alike."
--Exeunt, 2011

"The music of Magical Night slinks and darts between silent film score urgency and Weimar cabaret sophistication . . . Meticulous nonsense-logic is what sets Magical Night apart among the current Christmas shows and makes its many surprises all the more satisfying."
--The Evening Standard, 2011

"The kids, as they say, loved it . . . It was enchanting . . . This is high culture meets children's entertainment, making for indeed a magical night."
--The Londonist, 2011

"A captivating series of musical numbers . . . In its diversity Zaubernacht embraces the mordant, bittersweet Weill to come but also contains straightforwardly tuneful, neoclassical episodes, some of which have a breezy, salon-music quality. The music neatly meshes with a nocturnal scenario akin to that of The Nutcracker in which toys come to life, though overt sweetness never disturbs the music's veneer of sophistication."
--Financial Times, 2012