SEPTEMBER 24 - 27, 2020

The Mahagonny Songspiel at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

The Mahagonny Songspiel

by Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, and Elisabeth Hauptmann

Hitler’s thugs blew whistles at the 1927 premiere of this chamber opera. Communists in the audience blew whistles of their own. Kurt Weill wrote the music, Bertolt Brecht wrote the libretto, and Elisabeth Hauptman collected the material from natural disasters and the cycle of capitalism.

Directed by Dennis Monn
Produced by the AllWays Lounge in Exile 


Sept 24 - 27, 2020

Plan Your Visit

“Schmutz! [Filth!]”
-Zeitschrift für Musik ['The Gestapo Music Magazine']

“Ugly and mean.”
-The Baden-Baden Morning Gazette, 1927


The songs of Mahagonny (an imaginary city, the name is pronounced "mah-ha-GO-knee") were heard for the first time in 1927 at the elite Baden-Baden Music Festival accompanied by shouts of protest. Hitler’s swastika-wearing followers in the audience blew whistles and heckled, as they would be at every other performance of Mahagonny throughout the Reich, until the show ceased performing, its creators fled the country, and the score itself was confiscated by the Gestapo.

When Bertolt Brecht, the director of Mahagonny, usually credited for writing the libretto, learned of Nazi plans to interrupt his premiere, he handed out pocket-whistles to the cast. Brecht’s friends in the audience brought their own whistles, too, so that the sounds of those protesting and the sounds of those protesting protest became part of Kurt Weill’s musical score.

There was more artful suppression in Mahagonny. More than half of the libretto is the unacknowledged work of Elisabeth Hauptmann, who conceived of a city where everything is for sale and the only crime is being poor. Hauptmann even wrote Brecht’s famous “Alabama Song” in which floozies on the make sing “Oh, show us the way to the next pretty boy/ Oh, don’t ask why!” In 1927 Hauptmann was fine with obscuring her role. An ardent Communist, she believed in suppressing individual expression in favor of group action.

But is it a coincidence that in Mahagonny, the person with ultimate power is a woman, the crime-boss Widow Begbick, who sits on the bench as the city’s ultimate judge?

The Festival’s production comes from New Orleans performed by the AllWays Lounge in Exile, directed by Dennis Monn, and the complex score led by piano virtuoso Harry Mayronne, Jr. Their crowd-pleasing past productions include Threepenny Opera and Happy End, all with music by Kurt Weill and texts also credited to Brecht, but mostly written by Hauptmann. If you don’t bring our own whistle, we’ll be handing them out.

The award-winning AllWays Lounge Players, including piano virtuoso Harry Mayronne, Jr., has collaborated for a decade. The Mahagonny Songspeil is their 3rd "downtown" take on a Weill/Brecht/Hauptmann work.

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