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Kurt Weill Biography

Kurt Weill Tickets

Kurt Weill In-depth Biography

The son of a cantor, Kurt Weill} was born in Dessau into a family that took in operatic performances as a main form of entertainment. When Weill} was in his teens the director of the Dessau Hoftheater}, Albert Bing}, encouraged him in the study of music. Weill} briefly studied composition with Engelbert Humperdinck} and was already working professionally as a conductor when he attended composer Ferruccio Busoni}'s master classes in Berlin. Delighted to see the positive responses of an audience to his first collaboration with playwright Georg Kaiser}, Der Protagonist} (1926), he thereafter resolved to work toward accessibility in his music. In 1926 Weill} married actress Lotte Lenya}, whose reedy, quavering singing voice he called "the one I hear in my head when I am writing my songs."

In 1927 Weill} began his collaboration with leftist playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht}; their first joint venture, Mahagonny-Songspiel} (1927), launched the number "Alabama Song,"} which, to their surprise, became a minor pop} hit in Europe. The next show, Die Dreigroschenoper} (The Three-Penny Opera, 1928) was a monstrous success, in particular the song "Moritat"} (Mack the Knife). Nonetheless, strain in their association was already being felt, and after the completion of their magnificent "school opera}" Der Jasager} (1930), the two parted company. Brecht} and Weill} were brought together once more in Paris to create Die Sieben Todsünden} (The Seven Deadly Sins) (1934). In the meantime, Weill} collaborated with Caspar Neher} on the opera} Die Bürgschaft} (1931) and Georg Kaiser} again on Der Silbersee} (1933), works that garnered the hostile attention of the then-emerging Nazi party. With the rise to power of {%Hitler}, Weill} and Lenya} were forced to dissolve their union and flee continental Europe. Weill} found his way to New York in 1935; rejoining Lenya}, Weill} became a citizen and devoted himself to American democracy with a vengeance, preferring his name pronounced like "wile" rather than "vile." After a series of frustrating flops, Weill} hit his stride with playwright Maxwell Anderson}, producing his first hit, Knickerbocker Holiday} (1938). In the dozen years left to him, Weill}'s stature on Broadway grew with a series of hit shows, including Lady in the Dark} (1941), One Touch of Venus} (1943), Love Life} (1948), and Lost in the Stars} (1949). Weill} had ambitions to create what he regarded as "the first American folk} opera}"; the closest of his American works to reach that goal is Street Scene} (1946), a sort of "urban folk} opera}" based on a play by Elmer Rice} with lyrics by Langston Hughes}.

On April 3, 1950, Weill} unexpectedly suffered a massive coronary and died in Lenya}'s arms. Weill}'s estate was valued at less than 1,000 dollars, and Lenya} realized that his contribution to musical theater was likewise undervalued. She commissioned composer Marc Blitzstein} to adapt an English-language version of Die Dreigroschenoper}; it opened off-Broadway in 1954 and ran for three years, touching off a Weill} revival that continues. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide

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