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1932-1950: What Next?

Autumn 1932: Lenya’s travels between 1932 and 1935 cannot be documented precisely, because the relevant pages from her passport for those years have been removed. At some point she and Pasetti travel to Monte Carlo, where they spend most of the next several months, at least until Spring 1933. They run up significant gambling debts.

11 December 1932: Plays Jessie in a performance of Mahagonny Songspiel augmented with four numbers from the opera at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. The all-Weill program is sponsored by La Sérénade, an important musical organization. Lenya and Pasetti spend most of December in Paris and return to Vienna around the new year.

Early 1933: Begins divorce proceedings against Weill in Germany. Lenya and Weill still care for each other, and the break-up frees Lenya to try to get Weill’s money and assets out of Germany. Years later, Lenya remarked that getting the divorce was easy; all she had to do was say she didn’t want to be married to a Jew any more and the authorities accepted it without hesitation.

18 February 1933: Attends the premiere of Der Silbersee, a play with music by Weill and Georg Kaiser, in Leipzig. This is her first reunion with Weill since December 1932. (The play gets glowing reviews, but it is forced to close shortly after the Nazis take power.)

March 1933: Weill is now in some danger from the Nazis, who have taken power. Lenya and Louise Hartung (a Berlin photographer and friend) pack some of Weill’s possessions at Wissmannstrasse 7 and drive him to Munich on 5 March, where they await the results of parliamentary elections. The Nazi party wins a plurality of the vote and soon outlaws all other parties, and it becomes clear that Weill must leave Germany. Lenya returns to Vienna as Weill goes back to Berlin to make final preparations for his flight.

5 April 1933: Meets Weill in Nancy; he offers her and Pasetti parts in a newly commissioned work, Die sieben Todsünden, a ballet with songs, with lyrics by Brecht.

7 June 1933: Plays Anna I in the premiere of Die sieben Todsünden in Paris, part of the summer season of a short-lived troupe, Les Ballets 1933. The ballet chanté is choreographed by George Balanchine; the production marks the last collaboration of Weill, Lenya, Brecht (libretto) and Caspar Neher (sets and costumes). Pasetti plays one of Anna I’s brothers; for him Weill writes an unusually high and punishing tenor part.

20 June 1933: Appears as Jessie in a concert version of Mahagonny Songspiel at La Sérénade in Paris.

30 June 1933: Opens with Les Ballets 1933 at the Savoy Theatre in London. The production runs until 15 July.

18 July 1933: Appears in a concert performance of Mahagonny (Songspiel) at the Aeolian Hall in London. Leaves England shortly thereafter and goes to Berlin, partly to take care of legal and financial business.

18 September 1933: Divorce finalized in Germany. Lenya and Pasetti attempt to get Weill’s money and assets out of Germany over the next several months, with limited success.

November 1933: Finalizes the sale of the house in Kleinmachnow. Reunites with Pasetti in San Remo, Italy for more gambling.

29 December 1933: Plays Jessie in a performance of Mahagonny Songspiel augmented with four numbers from the opera at Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome. Pasetti is also in the cast. He and Lenya return to San Remo after the performance.

January-June 1934: Lives with Pasetti in San Remo, where they continue to gamble and try to get Weill’s money and property out of Germany.

16 August 1934: Plays Pussy Angora in the premiere of a revue, Lieber reich aber glücklich, at the Corso-Theater in Zurich, directed by Hans Curjel. Pasetti seems to be out of the picture by now. Lenya probably meets Max Ernst during this time.

October 1934: Lenya moves into Weill’s house in the suburbs of Paris. She begins an affair with the artist Max Ernst that lasts a few months.

7 February 1935: Has minor surgery to remove a vaginal polyp in Paris.

8 April 1935: Travels to London, where she stays with her friend Gerty Simon as Weill readies his operetta A Kingdom for a Cow for production. Lenya has been studying English on and off for two or three years; one of her reasons for going to London may be to continue her studies.

August 1935: Weill, in Salzburg working on the Biblical pageant Der Weg der Verheissung (text by Franz Werfel), informs Lenya that he will go to the United States early in September to supervise the music for a New York production. He invites her to sail with him and tells her how to arrange for the necessary visas.

2 September 1935: Returns to Paris and obtains a temporary visa for travel in the U.S.

4 September 1935: Boards the S.S. Majestic in Cherbourg for a voyage to the U.S. with Weill. Both of them assume that they will soon return to Europe. They arrive on 10 September and check into the Hotel St. Moritz.

1 December 1935: Eternal Road director Max Reinhardt announces that Lenya will be part of the cast.

17 December 1935: Performs in an all-Weill concert, which is coolly received, at the Cosmopolitan Club in New York; the concert is sponsored by the League of Composers. Lenya sings excerpts from Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, “Seeräuberjenny” and “Barbara-Song” from Die Dreigroschenoper, and “J’attends un navire” from Marie Galante. (Other artists perform excerpts from Weill’s works Die Bürgschaft and A Kingdom for a Cow.) In a review, Marc Blitzstein opines that “Lenya is too special a talent for wide American appeal.”

Early 1936: Moves with Weill to the Hotel Park Crescent in New York.

7 April 1936: Signs contract to perform in Leonard Sillman’s revue, “New Faces of 1936.” The contract is later voided by mutual consent.

June 1936: Weill and Lenya move to Connecticut for the summer to work with the Group Theatre on Weill’s first American stage work, Johnny Johnson (book and lyrics by Paul Green). Weill spends most of his time teaching American actors to sing his way; Lenya has little to do. She has a brief affair with Green.

Autumn 1936: Moves with Weill into Cheryl Crawford’s apartment on E. 51st Street in New York; preparations for The Eternal Road (English version of Der Weg der Verheissung) get underway again for a January opening.

7 January 1937: Plays Miriam in the premiere of The Eternal Road at the Manhattan Opera House. Though the production runs about four months, Lenya’s performance, which includes a song, goes largely unnoticed among the press and public.

19 January 1937: Re-marries Weill in a civil ceremony in Westchester County.

Summer 1937: Moves with Weill into a duplex apartment on E. 62nd Street in Manhattan, their first permanent home in the U.S.

27 August 1937: Lenya and Weill return from Canada, where they have obtained immigrant visas.

24 October 1937: Plays The Suicide in the premiere of Marc Blitzstein’s radio opera, I’ve Got the Tune, broadcast on CBS.

13 December 1937: Travels with Weill to Hollywood, where he has a contract to score the film You and Me. They stay until early February 1938.

April-May 1938: Performs regularly in a Manhattan nightclub, Le Ruban Bleu. Lenya sings several songs from Weill’s European works, as well as “The Right Guy for Me” from You and Me and a song written especially for her by Marc Blitzstein called “Few Little English.” The appearance helps to make her name and talent known among the sophisticated crowd in New York, but it does not lead to any immediate offers.

Late May 1938: Lenya and Weill rent a cottage in Suffern, NY, near Maxwell Anderson’s house; Weill and Anderson begin work on their first show together, Knickerbocker Holiday.

Autumn 1938: Meets Walter Huston, star of Knickerbocker Holiday, and his wife Nan. Through them, she meets Mary Daniel, who will remain a close friend and regular visitor until her death in the late 1970’s.

Christmas 1939: Receives a gift from Weill: a setting of Brecht’s poem “Nannas Lied.” She never performs it in public.

28 May 1941: Moves into Brook House (New City, NY) with Weill, the first house they buy together in the U.S. They join a colony of artists in the area, including cartoonists Milton Caniff and Bill Mauldin, painter Henry Varnum Poor, and actor Burgess Meredith. Lenya, Mab Anderson, and Bunny Caniff quickly become inseparable friends and card players. Weill and Lenya live there for the rest of their lives.

Autumn 1941: Meets Howard Schwartz from New City with whom she has an on-and-off affair.

15 September 1941: Plays Cissie, a maid, in the first performance of Maxwell Anderson’s Candle in the Wind at the Colonial Theatre in Boston (out-of-town tryout). Anderson wrote the part especially for her.

22 October 1941: Plays Cissie in the premiere of Candle in the Wind by Maxwell Anderson, directed by Alfred Lunt, at the Shubert Theatre — her Broadway debut. Lenya gets good reviews, but the play is not so successful. The run of 95 performances is followed by an extensive tour of about 40 cities in the eastern half of the U.S., from January until the end of May 1942, Lenya’s first travel in the heartland. She is able to see Schwartz occasionally while on tour.

December 1941: Helps Ernst Josef Aufricht, producer of the world premiere of Die Dreigroschenoper, and his wife Margot escape Europe and come to the U.S.

June? 1942: Begins civil defense work in Rockland County, including looking for planes from a watchtower. This duty continues sporadically until the war is nearly over.

20 August 1942: Performs “Rockland for Russia!,” a song by Weill and J.P. McEvoy, at a revue called “The Rockland Riot,” a benefit for Russian war relief at the Clarkstown Country Club in Nyack, NY.

3 April 1943: Participates in a fundraising concert produced and performed by European exiles in New York, “We Fight Back!” She gives the world premiere of Weill’s setting of Brecht’s poem, “Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?,” as well as “Moritat,” “Seeräuberjenny,” “Surabaya-Johnny.” Weill accompanies her at the piano.

October? 1943: Learns that Howard Schwartz has been killed in a plane crash; she is devastated by his untimely death.

December 1943: Records Six Songs by Kurt Weill for Bost Records (BA 8) in New York: “Surabaya-Johnny,” “Denn wie man sich bettet,” “J’attends un navire,” “Complainte de la Seine,” “Lost in the Stars,” and “Lover Man” (later revised as “Trouble Man”). Weill supervises the recording; it is likely but not certain that he accompanies her at the piano.

Spring 1944: Records two of Weill’s songs for the U.S. Office of War Information for use in radio broadcasts to Germany. One is “Wie lange noch,” with lyrics by Walter Mehring; the other is “Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?,” which she performed the previous year. She also records “Lied einer deutschen Mutter,” with lyrics by Brecht and music by Paul Dessau.

5 May 1944: Becomes American citizen.

Summer 1944: Prepares for another Broadway role, the Duchess in Weill’s The Firebrand of Florence, by taking voice lessons with Eva Gauthier.

23 February 1945: Plays The Duchess at the first performance of the operetta The Firebrand of Florence (music and lyrics by Weill and Ira Gershwin, book by Edwin Justus Mayer) at the Shubert Theatre in Boston (out-of-town tryout).

22 March 1945: Plays the Duchess in the premiere of The Firebrand of Florence at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway. Weill insists that she be cast in a major supporting role over the objections of his collaborators. After the show flops (43 performances) and Lenya is panned, she gives up performing for several years.

27 March and 12 April 1945: Appears on two radio shows for CBS, interviewed by Mary Margaret McBride and Adelaide Hawley, respectively.

Late 1947: Undergoes emergency appendectomy.

29 September 1948: Lenya’s mother and sister arrive from Vienna for a visit, the first time Lenya has seen them since she left Europe. They stay almost two months. It is the last time Lenya and her mother see each other.

17 March 1950: Weill has a heart attack and is taken to Flower Hospital in New York City.

3 April 1950: Weill dies in the hospital after a two-week illness. Lenya is devastated; for weeks, her friends and neighbors are afraid to let her spend the night alone.

6 June 1950: Writes to magazine editor George Davis to thank him for a lovely evening and to issue a standing invitation for him to visit Brook House. The two have known each other since the late 1930s, but Lenya’s bereavement and Davis’s difficulty holding a job make them more attractive to each other. With Davis’s help, she resolves to “fight for [Weill’s] music, to keep it alive, to do everything within my power for it.” She maintains this goal with great tenacity until her death. Her voluminous legal and business correspondence, starting in 1950, attests to her perseverance.

4 July 1950: Gives a television interview to Kathi Norris (network unknown).

10 July 1950: Attends a memorial concert for Weill in New York City. Maxwell Anderson delivers a eulogy.

7 August 1950: Attends the opening of Lost in the Stars in San Francisco with Mab Anderson.


Up Next: Renaissance (1951 – 1960)

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