The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny - 1977

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The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

An Opera in Three Acts
An Opera by Kurt Weill & Bertold Brecht

May 6, 7, 13, 14 at 8:30pm
May 8 & 15 at 2pm
UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall

Libretto by Bertolt Brecht
English Translation by Michael Feingold
Music by Kurt Weill

Conducted by Samuel Krachmalnick*
Stage Direction by John Hall*
Production Design by Archie Sharp
Lighting Design by P. Reid Hart
Costumes by Allison Gail Bixby
Musical Preparation by Peggy Sheffield*


In the vast tapestry of operatic literature there are certain works that are widely and widely talked about, but are seldom produced. These opera titles are popular cocktail party conversation and operatic seminar topics but few opera lovers have ever seen them. Recordings of these works may exist but they often confuse the listener or limit the work’s impact for without witnessing a live performance in the theater, judgments must be reserved, “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” by Bertoldt Brecht and Kurt Weill is a prime example of this paradox; an opera that many people know about but few people know.

I remember reading about “Mahagonny” as a student.” The title alone caught my attention but the stories of rioting at the Berlin premiere in 1930 and the Nazi persecution of the authors and their exile to America made me even more curious. When I first heard Lotte Lenya singing “Alabama Song” with her uniquely broken but bittersweet voice I was hooked. This strange opera with its Cabaret tunes and anti-capitalistic dogma, it’s hookers and crude opportunistic characters so full of hatred and despair had won me over. Pre-war Berlin fascinated me. Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith, William Furtwangler, Max Reinhardt, Mies Van der Rohe, Marlene Dietrich, Peter Lorre, Kathe Kollwitz, Christopher Isherwood, Brecht, Weill and many more were there and they were all busy. The incredible economic inflation and depression of the period seemed to spark creativity.

When Samuel Krachmalnick, the new Director of the UCLA Opera Theater, decided on “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” for production, I had my own reservations. UCLA and Southern California in 1977 seemed almost too far apart. Recent productions of the Opera (and its original one-act version) had left me cold and unmoved. They seemed to lack a sense of period or style. Could UCLA students create that exotic mixture of communism and cabaret on the operatic stage? Lotte Lenya’s opening phrase “O Moon of Alabama…” made me feel that perhaps this paradoxical opera by two angry young men would best be performed by students. This production was conceived with that in mind, and in future conversations about “Mahagonny” we can say we were there, we saw it.


Three escaped criminals, Begbick, Moses and Fatty, make plans to build Mahagonny, a city of pleasure, to entice workers coming down from northern gold fields. Hookers, gamblers and other lowlifes appear and join forces with the three founders following the rules of supply and demand. Among the new residents of Mahagonny come four lumberjacks from Alaska looking for a good time. Their leader Jimmy MacIntyre discovers that Mahagonny is too restrictive to give him pleasure. When a hurricane threatens to destroy the city he formulates his ideal for Mahagonny. “You may do anything for the sake of your own well being.” Quick to see the enormous profits to be made, Begbick adopts his anarchistic ideas with capitalistic ferver.

In the second act we see the hurricane bypass Mahagonny and Jimmy’s lawlessness put into practice. One of his friends eats himself to death, another is killed fighting. Love is organized like a computer and when Jimmy is drinking at the bar he is caught by Mahagonny’s only law. Anything is allowed if you’ve got the cash to pay for it. Penniless, he is rejected by his friends, arrested and put on trial by Kangaroo court.

Act three begins with the “whells of justice” in motion, well oiled by bribery and deceit. Because he has no money he is sentenced to death. At his execution, his appeals to God are useless because they are in hell already. The hell he helped create. The city destroys itself feeding on its own wickedness.


Trinity Moses
David Dunlap

Fatty, the Procurer
John Deaver

Leocadia Begbick
Jane Henschel (May 6, 8, 14)
Lisa Turetsky (May 7, 13, 15)

Jenny Smith
Anita Faye

Jimmy MacIntrye
John Guarnieri*

Jack O’Brien
David Hart

Bank Account Bill
Burman Timberlake

Alaska Wolf Joe
Sheldon Pine

Toby Higgins
David Hart

Maidens of Mahagonny
Jana Christianson
Ruth Goldstein
Kate Hendon
Julie Land
Melinda Leoncini
Marian MacKinney
Pam Scanlon

Men of Mahagonny
Phil Apoian
Paul Crehan
Larry Duplechan
Mitchell Kaplan
Seth Kaplan
Craig Lowensen
Steve Paskowitz
Robert Singer
Perry Wert

Members of UCLA’s
Men’s Glee Club –
Donn Weiss, Director

*UCLA Faculty Member

UCLA Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by Samuel Krachmalnick

Stanley Plummer*
Richard Toole
Claire Jacobs
Eric Kujawsky
Ruth Bruegger
Barbara Natterson
Steve Burdick
Ulysses Roseman
Erin McFadden
Cindy Wong
Julie Harder
David Koppelman
Linda Brown
Gerald Sitser
Michael Gitt
Harry Drandell

Sven Reher*
Juan Barfield
Aviva Leonard
Kim McLean

Gloria Lum
Steven Olsen
Marjorie Buck
Blair Gordon
Michael Eshoff
Amira Green

Peter Mercurio*
Bruce Morgenthaler
Anna Cohen

Mark Gottesman

Ochestra Piano
Blaise Brysal

Lorelei Larson
Anahid Nazarian
Jane Sime
Susie Schneiderman

Darwin Scott

Alto Saxophone
Julie West

Tenor Saxophone
Dan Zinn

Daryll Stevens
Cathy Box
Robert Read

Ken Meyer
Steve Zicker
Lois Nathan
Lynn Bonicelli
Mark Forry

Soprano Saxophone
Ken Meyer

Sinclair Lott*
Jay Hull
David Janson
Gerry Simon
Carl Cole

Brian Recht
Bob Fitt
Eric Wright

Albert Elegino
Mark Burrill
Peter Brown
Valerie Higgins

Jim Arwine

Greg Goodall
Jess Whitehill

Jennifer Judkins

Mark Forry

Stage Piano
Laurel Kenner


Opera Workshop Staff

Samuel Krachmalnick

Stage Director
John Hall

Coaching and Repertoire
Mario Carta and Peggy Sheffield

Edythe Johnson

Betty Barr and Carol Vane

Musical Theater Director
Alan Gilbert

German and French Diction
Sybil Hast

Melinda Werner

Coaching Assistants
Kate Hendon and Sigrid Wagner

Production Coordinator
John Hayes

Auditorium Manager
Phil Proctor

*UCLA faculty member


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