Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) is a political-satirical opera composed by Kurt Weill to a German libretto by Bertolt Brecht. It was first performed in Leipzig on March 9, 1930.
The story is that three criminals (Leokadja Begbick, Trinity Moses and Fatty) create the city of Mahagonny. Drinking, gambling, prize-fights and similar activities are the sole occupation of the inhabitants, and money rules. There are only two main characters, Jenny, a prostitute, and Jim Mahoney, a lumberjack. Mahagonny is threatened by a hurricane at the end of Act 1, which despite much anticipation & causing much distress simply bypasses the city. In Act 2 following the hurricane nothing is forbidden and various scenes of debauchery occur. Jenny and Jim try to leave but Jim cannot pay his debts and is arrested. Another character arraigned for murder, bribes his way out of it, but Jim has no money and is condemned to death for not paying for his whisky. The opera ends with discontent destroying the city, which burns as the inhabitants march away.
The music uses a number of styles, including rag-time, jazz and formal counterpoint, notably in the Alabama Song (covered by The Doors). The lyrics for the Alabama Song and another song, the Benares Song are in English (albeit specifically idiosyncratic English) and are performed in that language even when the opera is performed in its original (German) language.
The libretto was mainly written in the autumn of 1927 and the music was finished in the spring of 1929, although both text and music were to be partly revised by the authors later. The opera had its premiere in Leipzig in March 1930 and played in Berlin in December of the following year. The opera was banned by the Nazis in 1933 and did not have a significant production until the 1960s. It has played in opera houses around the world. Never achieving the popularity of Weill and Brecht's Threepenny Opera, Mahagonny is still considered a work of stature with a haunting score. Herbert Lindenberger in his book Opera in History, for example, views Mahagonny alongside Schoenberg's Moses und Aron as indicative of the two poles of modernist opera.
The 2005 movie Manderlay, directed by Lars Von Trier, contains several references to the plot of Mahagonny. The most notable of these is the threat of a hurricane approaching the city during the first act. Von Trier's earlier movie Dogville, to which Manderlay is a sequel, was for a large part based on a song from Brecht's famous Threepenny Opera (The Pirate Jenny). In the brothel scene in Act II of Mahagonny, the choir sings a "Song von Mandelay". The play Happy End (1929) by Elisabeth Hauptmann, Brecht and Weill, also contains a song called Der Song von Mandelay, which uses the same refrain as in the brothel scene of Mahagonny. Brecht's use of the name Mandelay/Mandalay was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's poem Mandalay.