Eric Salzman

Composer, critic, and theorist Eric Salzman has passed away at the age of 84. As a critic, Salzman was an advocate both of Weill’s music and his experimental approach to the theater. He contributed several pieces to the Kurt Weill Newsletter, the first in 1984, the last in 2009, when the Newsletter reprinted extended passages from his book co-authored with Thomas Desi, The New Music Theater: Seeing the Voice, Hearing the Body (Oxford, 2008). Salzman’s detailed coverage of New York’s celebration of Weill’s centenary in the Fall 2000 issue praised various organizations for bringing forth several of Weill’s little-known works while sounding a cautionary note: “Only his longer-range theatrical influence–very much alive both on and off Broadway–was neglected. For those of us working in new music-theater, it is this aspect of Weill that seems the most actual.”

As a theater practitioner, Salzman helped bring a revival of Weill and Alan Jay Lerner’s Love Life to the boards in 1990 as Artistic Director of Philadelphia’s American Music Theater Festival. His comment on the festival–“We are not a Broadway festival and not pre-Broadway; we are interested in works of art. But this doesn’t mean that we reject popular forms; we are interested in the absorption or perhaps the deconstruction of pop forms”–echoed some of Weill’s own strategies for making theater. Salzman will be greatly missed not only as a chronicler of twentieth-century and avant-garde music and theater, but as a tireless explorer of new ways of bonding the two.

Obituary from the New York Times