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1926 - 1933

Rise to Fame

In his collaborations with playwrights Georg Kaiser and Bertolt Brecht, Weill creates a compelling musical style and devotes himself to composing for the theater. He becomes a leading cultural figure in Weimar Germany, and The Threepenny Opera assures him fame and fortune.

Read Text-Only Chronology
Read Text-Only Chronology


  • 27 March

    Premiere of one-act opera Der Protagonist

    Dresden, Staatsoper: libretto by Georg Kaiser; directed by Josef Gielen; conducted by Fritz Busch. The work and production are widely hailed in the press; Weill’s musical stature in Germany increases sharply.

    • The Protagonist (Kurt Taucher) and his Sister (Elisa Stünzner) in the Dresden premiere

    • Handbill from the Dresden premiere

    • Left: Young Man (Paul Schöffler) and Sister (Elisa Stünzner). Right: Set of the pantomime scenes, the "play within the opera" that leads to the climax.

  • 8 April

    Weill writes to his parents of more successful productions of Der Protagonist: “The big operatic success of the season”

  • June - July

    Delayed honeymoon with Lenya in Italy and France, following their wedding in January

    After they return home, Weill wrote to Lenya: “I love the sound of your voice like a very force of nature . . . When I envelop myself in your voice, then you are with me in every way.”

  • 1 September

    Premiere of Weill’s first score composed for radio broadcast: incidental music for Grabbe’s play Herzog Theodor von Gothland; now lost


  • 2 March

    Premiere of one-act opera Royal Palace, which includes the first use of (silent) film in an opera

    Berlin, Staatsoper: libretto by Yvan Goll; directed by Franz-Ludwig Hörth; conducted by Erich Kleiber. Weill’s first opera premiere in Berlin takes place on his 27th birthday. The opera is unsuccessful, produced only once during Weill’s lifetime after the initial run.

  • Late March

    Meets Bertolt Brecht; the two look for opportunities to collaborate and soon begin working on Brecht’s idea of a fictional American city known as Mahagonny

    Weill has just published a favorable review of a radio performance of Brecht’s play Mann ist Mann.

  • April

    Publisher Universal Edition rejects Weill’s two-act comic opera Na und? with libretto by his friend Felix Joachimsohn; only sketches survive

  • Late May

    Weill takes his first airplane flight as he and Brecht travel to Essen to discuss a commission, which never materializes

  • 17 July

    Premiere of Mahagonny: Ein Songspiel

    Baden-Baden, German Chamber Music Festival: libretto by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; directed by Brecht and Walther Brügmann; conducted by Ernst Mehlich. “Songspiel,” a pun on the German word “Singspiel,” incorporates the English word “song” to create a new genre.

    • Rehearsal of the finale of Mahagonny Songspiel, where the singers wield placards. Singers, left to right: Karl Giebel, Georg Ripperger, Irene Eden, Gerhard Pechner, Erik Wirl, and Lotte Lenya. Weill and Brügmann are at the left; Brecht at the right; Lenya's placard reads, "Für Weill!"

    • Program from the Baden-Baden premiere

    • Group photo taken during rehearsals; Lenya is front left, Brecht behind her, Brügmann to Lenya's left, Weill top left

    • Autograph score of "Alabama Song"

  • November

    Universal Edition publishes Weill’s first piece of sheet music, “Alabama-Song,” from Mahagonny Songspiel

  • 23 November

    Premiere of Weill’s setting of Brecht’s poem, “Vom Tod im Wald,” at the Berlin Philharmonic


  • 18 February

    Premiere of one-act opera buffa Der Zar lässt sich photographieren

    The opera incorporates Weill’s “Tango-Angèle,” pre-recorded and played on a gramophone to accompany the principal characters as they sing and dance. Leipzig, Neues Theater: libretto by Georg Kaiser; directed by Walther Brügmann; conducted by Gustav Brecher. It is produced in over 35 opera houses over the next two years, Weill’s most-performed work to date.

    • Scene from the premiere in Leipzig, with the male chorus standing in the orchestra pit

    • "Tango-Angèle"

      Recording of Weill's dance arrangement played by Marek Weber and his orchestra, issued by Electrola

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    • Stadttheater Düsseldorf mounted the second production on 27 March 1928; Weill attended the performance (seated center)

  • 8 April

    Premiere of the play Konjunktur by Leo Lania, for which Weill composed stage music, including the song “Muschel von Margate"

  • May

    Travels with Brecht to the Riviera; they work on the songs of Die Dreigroschenoper

  • 31 August

    Premiere of play with music Die Dreigroschenoper

    Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm: text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; directed by Erich Engel; conducted by Theo Mackeben. A disastrous rehearsal period culminates in the greatest theatrical success of the Weimar Republic. Berlin is seized by “Dreigroschen-fever” and the work is soon performed all over the world.

    • Macheath (Harald Paulsen) in prison, with Mrs. Peachum (Rosa Valletti) and Polly (Roma Bahn)

    • "Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens"

      Sung by Bertolt Brecht, probably early 1929

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    • Weill and Brecht

      Footage of Weill and Brecht during rehearsals for Die Dreigroschenoper, with a cameo by Lenya. Also includes a short clip of Weill and Brecht from 1927.

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    • First page of Weill's manuscript score of "Moritat von Mackie Messer"

  • October

    Weill and Lenya move to a better apartment and buy a car on the strength of the success of Die Dreigroschenoper

  • 15 October

    Opening of Berlin im Licht festival, for which Weill and several other composers have written music

    The festival celebrates widespread gas and electric lighting throughout the city.


  • 7 February

    Premiere of Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, Weill’s own arrangement of selections from Die Dreigroschenoper, conducted by Otto Klemperer in Berlin

  • 22 May

    Premiere of Das Berliner Requiem, composed for radio broadcast

    Frankfurter Sender: conducted by Ludwig Rottenberg. Weill’s settings of a group of poems by Brecht intended as a protest against war and violence.

  • 2 September

    Premiere of play with music Happy End

    Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm: book by Elisabeth Hauptmann; songs by Weill and Brecht; directed by Erich Engel; conducted by Theo Mackeben. Intended to recapture the magic of Die Dreigroschenoper, the work flops and is never revived during Weill’s lifetime, despite general praise for the songs.

    • Final tableau from original production; the stained-glass windows depict Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller, from left to right

    • "Surabaya-Johnny"

      Sung by Lotte Lenya, 1930

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    • Draft in Weill's hand of "Surabaya-Johnny"

    • Scene from the original production: members of Bill Cracker's gang attend a Salvation Army meeting

  • 5 December

    Premiere of Der Lindberghflug at the Krolloper in Berlin, conducted by Otto Klemperer

    Cantata celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight; text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann. Sometimes known as Der Ozeanflug.


  • 9 March

    Premiere of three-act opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, sometimes known as an “epic opera”

    Leipzig, Neues Theater: libretto by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; directed by Walther Brügmann; conducted by Gustav Brecher. The first performance is disrupted by Nazi demonstrators and ends in a near-riot. It receives several productions in Germany before 1933, but many opera houses avoid it because of the growing power of the Nazi party.

    • Scene from Act I shows the singers wearing white masks

    • Drawing made by Caspar Neher of the trial scene

    • Program from the Leipzig premiere

    • Drawing of the final scene at the Leipzig premiere

  • 28 March

    U.S. premiere of Weill’s Violin Concerto by the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Fritz Reiner with Emil Heermann as soloist

  • 23 June

    Premiere of two-act “school opera” Der Jasager

    The work is first heard as a radio broadcast, with the stage premiere the following day in Berlin at the Zentralinstitut für Erziehung und Unterricht: libretto by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann; conducted by Kurt Drabek. The opera, designed to be performed by secondary-school students, is given in over 300 German schools before March 1933.

    • Weill consults the score with director Heinrich Martens (left), conductor Kurt Drabek (right), and members of the cast

    • Der Jasager

      Footage from rehearsal for performance by German students, Paris, December 1932

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    • Scene from the original radio production that appeared in the German magazine Die Funk-Stunde

  • August 1930

    Begins work on an opera, Die Bürgschaft, with Caspar Neher, longtime friend of Brecht and leading set designer

    Weill and Neher met through Brecht in 1927 and developed an independent friendship. By 1930, political, esthetic, and personal differences have placed a strain on Weill and Brecht’s relations.

  • 17 October

    Weill and Brecht file lawsuits against Nero-Tobis Film, which is producing a film version of Die Dreigroschenoper, over breaches of contract

    Weill claims that Nero-Tobis has violated a contractual obligation to give him control over the music in the film. The court rules in his favor; he is awarded damages and signs a new contract.

  • December

    Some members of the original cast record fourteen songs from Die Dreigroschenoper


  • 19 February

    Premiere of German version of G.W. Pabst’s film, Die 3Groschenoper

    A parallel French version is created at the same time.

    • The program for the German version of the film shows the creative team and photos of the principal cast members

    • Moritat von Mackie Messer

      Footage from the German film version with Ernst Busch as the Street Singer

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    • Lotte Lenya as Jenny

  • 4 April

    U.S. premiere of Der Lindberghflug by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski

  • Summer

    As work continues on Die Bürgschaft, Weill begins a prolonged affair with Caspar Neher’s wife, Erika while Lenya travels to the Soviet Union to work on a film; Weill and Lenya have begun growing apart

  • 17 November

    Premiere of song, “Das Lied vom blinden Mädchen” with lyrics by Günther Weisenborn

    Performed by Lenya, the song forms part of a left-wing revue at the Volksbühne in Berlin. The manuscript then disappears for nearly 80 years before it is rediscovered in a Berlin library in 2017.

  • 21 December

    Berlin premiere of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, the beginning of a continuous two-month run; Weill has recomposed some passages to accommodate a non-operatic cast that includes Lenya as Jenny

    Weill and Brecht break up definitively during rehearsals.


  • 10 March

    Premiere of three-act opera Die Bürgschaft

    Berlin, Städtische Oper: libretto by Caspar Neher; directed by Carl Ebert; conducted by Fritz Stiedry. Die Bürgschaft marks Weill’s liberation from Brechtian constraints, and he composes a powerful, full-bodied opera score. Musically, it combines echoes of Verdi and Baroque music with Weill’s innovations of the last few years.

    • Rehearsal in Berlin: director Carl Ebert, conductor Fritz Stiedry, and Weill

    • Wilhelm Rode (Orth) and Hans Reinmar (Mattes) rehearse the final scene

  • March

    Weill moves into a new house in Klein Machnow, a neighborhood in western Berlin, just after the premiere of Die Bürgschaft

  • 26 April

    Viennese premiere of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny in a heavily abridged version; Lenya falls for a fellow cast member, Otto Pasetti, and abandons Weill for him

  • 11 December

    Weill is fêted in Paris at a performance of Mahagonny Songspiel (with four numbers added from Aufstieg) and Der Jasager at the Salle Gaveau; he meets the art patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles and many other leading lights of Paris musical society


  • January

    Lenya begins divorce proceedings

  • 9 January

    Weill receives an offer to write a score for a film version of Hans Fallada’s novel Kleiner Mann - was nun?

    He pursues the opportunity, but it is withdrawn for fear of Nazi pressure.

  • 18 February

    Premiere of play with music Der Silbersee

    Leipzig, Altes Theater: text by Georg Kaiser; directed by Detlef Sierck; conducted by Gustav Brecher. The work opens on the same day in Magdeburg and Erfurt. The ascendant Nazi government forces the play to close on all three stages within three weeks.

    • Olim's castle in the Leipzig production; Fennimore (Gretl Berndt) is on the main floor to the left and Severin (Alexander Golling) is to the right; Olim (Erhard Siedel) and Frau von Luber (Lina Carstens) are on the landing

    • "Der Bäcker backt ums Morgenrot"

      Sung by Ernst Busch, 1933

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    • Ernst Busch (standing) played Severin in the Magdeburg production

    • "Es wächst uns in den Mund der Wein"

      Sung by Ernst Busch, 1933

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  • 21 March

    Weill departs Germany for France, not knowing when he might return

    Weill is alerted by someone with knowledge of Nazi plans that he is in danger of arrest. Caspar and Erika Neher drive him through Luxembourg to Paris, where they arrive on 23 March. Weill would never set foot in Germany again.

    • Weill's passport shows his entry into France at Longlaville (bottom, right-hand side)

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