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Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny)

Epic opera in three acts. Text by Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with Kurt Weill, Elisabeth Hauptmann, and Caspar Neher.

Work Details


Full Evening

First Performance

9 March 1930, Leipzig, Städtisches Theater, Walter Brügmann, dir., Gustav Brecher, cond.

For information about licensing this work for use, see our online guide

Building Mahagonny: Some Guidelines

Read these indispensable notes prepared by Kim H. Kowalke in English or Deutsch.

Act I

Somewhere in America. Three criminals on the lam–Fatty, Trinity Moses, and the Widow Begbick–are stranded in the desert after their truck breaks down. Begbick decrees that they will found a city called Mahagonny, a utopia of pleasure and idleness, but really a snare and a money pit (). The city grows quickly, soon populated by prostitutes, led by Jenny (), and dissatisfied bourgeoisie (). Then a group of lumberjacks arrives from Alaska (), lured by the city’s reputation. Begbick welcomes them as they introduce themselves (): Jim (the leader), Bill, Jack, and Joe. She brings on the girls and the lumberjacks bargain for them (). Begbick and her partners lament their inadequate income and decide to pack up and leave (), but they change their minds when more suckers arrive. Jim and the lumberjacks are also dissatisfied because there is not enough action (). A pianist plays “The Maiden’s Prayer” in a hotel lobby, prompting Jim to continue his lament (). Then a hurricane approaches the city and everyone cowers in fear () except Jim, who takes advantage of the impending catastrophe to declare that henceforth nothing will be prohibited in Mahagonny ().

Act II

Mahagonny is inexplicably unharmed by the hurricane (), and the inhabitants resume their revels (). A series of tableaux follows: eating, sex, boxing, and drinking. Jack eats himself to death (), the men of Mahagonny line up for the prostitutes (), and Joe dies in a boxing match with Trinity Moses (). Jim invites everyone for a round of drinks (), but he tells Jenny that he is out of money when the bill comes. He proposes that they escape to Alaska together, and the crowd enacts a voyage inside the bar. Then Jim admits to Begbick that he cannot pay, and he is bound and thrown into prison. When Begbick asks Jenny if she will pay for Jim, she disavows all responsibility (). The chorus intones an ominous warning for Jim ().


Jim languishes in prison, awaiting his trial the next morning (). When court convenes (), a murderer is freed before Jim’s trial. Jim appeals to his last remaining friend, Bill, for money, but Bill refuses. Fatty, Moses, and Begbick convict Jim summarily on numerous charges, but he is condemned to death because he failed to pay his bar tab (). Jenny and others complain that they have nowhere else to go (). Jim is executed, and the remaining residents lapse further into discontent (). First Begbick, then all the others, display protest placards with contradictory slogans (), and it is clear that the city of Mahagonny will not survive.

Note: For commentary on act divisions and the placement of the optional “Kraniche-Duett” (Crane Duet) for Jenny and Jim, see “Building Mahagonny: Some Guidelines.”

  • Cast

    • Singing Roles

      • Leokadja Begbick (mezzo-soprano)
      • Fatty (tenor)
      • Trinity Moses (baritone)
      • Jenny Hill (soprano)
      • Jimmy Mahoney (tenor)
      • Jack O'Brien (tenor)
      • Bill (baritone)
      • Joe (bass)
      • Tobby Higgins (tenor)
      • Chorus of six girls and the men of Mahagonny
  • Instrumentation

    • 2 Flutes (2 picc)
    • Oboe
    • Clarinet
    • Soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
    • 2 Bassoons (Cbn)
    • 2 French horns
    • 3 Trumpets
    • 2 Trombones
    • Tuba
    • Piano, harmonium ad lib.
    • Banjo, bass guitar, bandoneon
    • Timpani, percussion
    • Strings
    • Stage orchestra: 2 Flutes (2 picc), 2 Clarinets, 3 Saxophones (sop., alto, ten.) 2 Bassoons; 2 French horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba; Piano, zither or xylophone, banjo, bandoneon; Percussion; 3 Violins.

Universal Edition, UE 9852

Revised piano-vocal score
(David Drew, 1969), Universal Edition, UE 9851

Revised piano-vocal score reflecting performance options (2012)
Universal Edition, UE 35 318

  • English

    • David Drew & Michael Geliot
    • Arnold Weinstein & Lys Symonette
    • Michael Feingold
  • French

    • Jean-Claude Hémery & Geneviève Serrau
  • Italian

    • Fedele d'Amico

  • Mahagonny Songspiel 1927

    Text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann (in German and English).

    Read More
  • Suite from Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny

    Arranged for orchestra by Wilhelm Brückner-Rüggeberg. Also see Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.

    Read More

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