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Kurt Weill

Kurt Julian Weill


(1900 - 1950)

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Kurt Weill was a musical prodigy from a family of distinguished rabbis. He studied in Berlin, presented his first opera in 1926, and was acclaimed as a leading modernist composer. With left-wing poet Bertolt Brecht he developed a distinctive style of opera, integrating political material through popular song. In 1928 The Three Penny Opera, rife with jazz and blues and starring Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, was a sensation. Weill’s strident melodies captured the nihilism and corruption of 1920’s Germany. A 1933 U.S. production flopped, but a successful revival (1954), with new lyrics by Marc Blitzstein, made a hit of “Mack the Knife” which won Grammies for Bobby Darin (1959) and Ella Fitzgerald (1960). Happy End (1929) produced “The Bilbao Song,” a later hit with Johnny Mercer’s lyrics. Mahagonny, their satire of capitalism set in a mythical American city, premiered in 1930 but was not seen in the U.S. until 1970. Its “Alabama Song” is full of ribald humor.

In 1933 Weill and Lenya fled to Paris and then America in 1935, the same year that Nazis closed Weill’s last German production. In the U.S. Weill worked on a film history of the Jews and on an anti-war satire with the influential Group Theatre. 1938’s Knickerbocker Holiday established Weill as a new force in American theater and captivated audiences with “September Song.” Lady in the Dark (1941, lyrics by Ira Gershwin) produced “My Ship,” and the musical comedy, One Touch of Venus (1943, lyrics by Ogden Nash), gave us “Speak Low.” Weill’s last work dealt with racial intolerance. Lost in the Stars (1949) with its touching title song, was adapted by Maxwell Anderson from Alan Paton’s book on South Africa, Cry, the Beloved Country.

Lenya, who collaborated on Weill’s work, remained involved with theater and played in U.S. films, winning a Best Supporting Actress nomination for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961).

- Sandra Burlingame

Lotte Lenya sings Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins & Berlin Theatre Songs

Lotte Lenya

The Threepenny Opera (1954 New York Cast)

Lotte Lenya, Beatrice Arthur, Charlotte Rae, Marc Blitzstein, Jo Sullivan Loesser, Scott Merrill, John Astin

Lost In The Stars (1949 Original Broadway Cast)

Todd Duncan, Inez Matthews, Sheila Guyse, Herbert Coleman

September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill

Charlie Haden, Kurt Weill, Gerard Schwartz, Gerard Schwarz, The Persuasions, Y Chamber Symphony of New York, Fred Hersch, Kurt Weill, Richard Woitach, Betty Carter, Elvis Costello (Declan MacManus), Lotte Lenya, Lou Reed, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Nick Cave

Mack the Knife: The Complete Ella in Berlin

Paul Smith Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald

September Song

Frank Sinatra

My Ship

George Shearing

Speak Low

Lew Soloff

Speak Low

Laurindo Almeida & Bud Shank

Speak Low

Walter Jr. Bishop

Kurt Weill: Life, Love, & Laughter--Dance Arrangements, 1927-50

Reading and Viewing

At Amazon.com you can often buy used for a fraction of the new price

David Farneth, Elmar Juchem, Dave Stein, Bernard Schleifer (Editor)

Kurt Weill: A Life in Pictures and Documents

Overlook Press

Kurt Weill

Songs Volume 1, A Centennial Anthology

Warner Brothers Publications

Foster Hirsch

Kurt Weill - On Stage: From Berlin to Broadway

Limelight Editions

Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya

Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

University of California Press

David Farneth

Kurt Weill

Overlook TP

David Drew

Kurt Weill: A Handbook

University of California Press

Jurgen Schebera

Kurt Weill: An Illustrated Life

Yale University Press

Street Scene: Vocal Score


Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved Country


Kurt Weill - The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1998)


Dee Dee Bridgewater, DeeDee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater Sings Kurt Weill - Live at North Sea Jazz



Ute Lemper, Michael Nyman and others

Sings Kurt Weill / Michael Nyman Songbook



Brock Peters, Melba Moore

Lost in the Stars

Kino Video


Helen Mirren, Olivier Martinez, Anne Bancroft, Rodrigo Santoro, Brian Dennehy

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Showtime Ent.


Robert Walker, Ava Gardner, Dick Haymes, Eve Arden

One Touch of Venus

Lions Gate


Knickerbocker Holiday

Nostalgia Home Video


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