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Newsletter Highlights

Featured content from past issues:

29 October 2020: Many artists are happy to leave their home town behind, and Weill was no exception. When his difficult and adventurous Violin Concerto was performed in Dessau on 29 October 1925, the critics were derisive, and Weill scorned their provincial taste in a letter to Lenya. Matters have improved since in Dessau, now the home of an annual festival devoted to Weill, which was inaugurated in 1993. Jürgen Schebera’s report on the original Kurt Weill Fest marks the dawn of a new era.

15 October 2020: Weill was credited with writing lyrics for exactly one song in his busy and fruitful career–“Berlin im Licht.” On this day in Berlin, 1928, the festival that gave the song its name opened to celebrate widespread gas and electric lighting throughout the city. In our Spring 1994 issue, Nils Grosch provided an account of Weill’s song and music by other composers written expressly for the festival.

14 October: On this day in Berlin, 1928, Weill’s one-act operas Der Protagonist and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren, both to librettos by Georg Kaiser, opened as a double bill. They are rarely programmed together to this day, even though Weill intended them as companion pieces. Gunther Diehl, editor of Der Protagonist for the Kurt Weill Editiondelved into the pairing in our Spring 1993 issue.

7 October: Weill fans have two Broadway openings to celebrate today: One Touch of Venus (1943) and Love Life (1948). The Newsletter goes well with both. For Venus, we propose the Spring 2010 feature and its focus on production history. Or sample Charles Willard’s perspective on Love Life even before the first revival, all the way back in the Fall 1984 issue. (If you haven’t kept up the past few years, you might consult the Spring 2017 and Fall 2019 features as well.)

28 September: On this day in 1955, Lenya and Louis Armstrong made history in a recording studio, collaborating on a recording of “Mack the Knife.” The recording was not released for many years (unlike Armstrong’s recording with his All-Stars, made at the same time, which put the song on the American popular map). In a comprehensive review from 1998 of the 11-CD retrospective of Lenya’s audio recordings, David Hamilton discussed the Lenya/Armstrong effort (scroll to p. 12).

20 September: The epoch-making off-Broadway Threepenny Opera confirmed its staying power on 20 September 1955 when it reopened at the Theater de Lys after a hiatus of over a year. It ran for over six years after that and did great things both for off-Broadway and for Weill’s reputation in the U.S. In Spring 2012, the Newsletter covered the prehistory of Marc Blitzstein’s stunningly successful adaptation of the work.

16 September: Here it is the middle of September and we have said nothing about “September Song.” But don’t congratulate us on our self-restraint yet, because we are about to go all the way back to our very first issue, which told the story of the new stanza that Maxwell Anderson added to one of Weill’s greatest evergreens.

10 September: Weill and Lenya arrived in New York on this day in 1935; both would remain in the U.S. for the rest of their lives. Our Fall 1997 cover displayed a historic photo of Weill and Lenya onboard ship with the New York skyline behind them, posing with Francesco and Eleonora von Mendelssohn and Meyer Weisgal.

3 September: After World War II, Jews all over the world sought to make Palestine their homeland. Ben Hecht’s play, A Flag Is Born made a passionate plea for Europe’s dispossessed Jewry to settle there; Weill provided the music for the show, which premiered on Broadway on 5 September 1946 and toured the U.S. In 2002, the Newsletter presented articles on A Flag Is Born by Edna Nahshon and Christian Kuhnt.

31 August: Weill and Brecht’s most successful work saw its world premiere on 31 August 1928. Die Dreigroschenoper became a big hit and a major influence on musical theater against all the odds. Our Fall 1988 issue boasted a special feature on all things Threepenny.

27 August: On this day in 1943, Weill was granted U.S. citizenship, after a six-year wait. Given his love for America, we can be sure that this was a very important day in his life. Let’s turn back to the Spring 1985 issue, when fellow emigré Henry Marx discussed “The Americanization of Weill and Lenya.”

20 August: In August 1940, Weill took a break from writing Lady in the Dark to take a fishing trip to Maine with Lenya and the Maxwell Andersons. There he encountered Benjamin Britten. In a review of the 1992 Britten-Weill festival at Aldeburgh, Patrick O’Connor relayed the story.

14 August: On 14 August 1956, Brecht died in East Berlin, the same day that Lenya arrived in Germany to resume her series of landmark Weill recordings; Die sieben Todsünden and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny were both in the can within three months. In honor of that momentous day, we recommend Andreas Meyer-Hanno’s account of Lenya’s meeting with Brecht the previous year from the Spring 1985 issue.

10 August: In August 1935, Weill put the finishing touches on the score of Der Weg der Verheissung, staged in 1937 as The Eternal Road. Weill’s largest work, and also probably the most complicated in its genesis and creation, is chronicled in a wealth of correspondence and primary material assembled by David Farneth for the Spring 1986 issue.

6 August: To mark the passing of the legendary Brecht scholar and drama critic Eric Bentley, we revisit his response to David Drew’s article, “How Was Weill’s Success Achieved,” which had been published in the Fall 1986 issue.

4 August: Weill began composition of his grand opera, Die Bürgschaft, in August 1931 (he also contributed extensively to the libretto). One of Weill’s largest and most neglected works was explored in Stephen McClatchie’s review of the world premiere recording (EMI, 1999).

26 July 2020: In 1944, Weill wrote to Lenya on 26 July to announce that he had worked out the opening scene of The Firebrand of Florence with Ira Gershwin and Edwin Justus Mayer; the new show was fairly underway at last. Joseph Smith analyzed the score, one of Weill’s least known and appreciated, in the Spring 1986 issue.

22 July: One of the most successful cast albums in history, the off-Broadway Threepenny Opera, was released on MGM Records in July 1954. Here is adaptor Marc Blitzstein on how it all began, reprinted in the Fall 1988 special issue on Threepenny.

17 July: The team of Weill and Brecht introduced themselves to the world on this day in 1927 with a raucous “Songspiel” titled Mahagonny. In 1992, Andreas Hauff investigated a likely source for this rather puzzling title–a German pop song from the early twenties.

15 July: The London production of Anna-Anna (The Seven Deadly Sins) closed on 15 July 1933, ending the first theatrical run of a Weill work in the U.K. What better way to commemorate the event than with Adam Pollock’s discovery of the English translation used for that performance?

15 July: On the anniversary of the world premiere of Down in the Valley, we suggest librettist Arnold Sundgaard’s reminiscences of the folk opera and how it came to be.

24 June: Weill’s school opera, Der Jasager, observes the ninetieth anniversary of its premiere today. We recommend Seth Brodsky’s review-essay covering a performance in New York in 2000 in tandem with its parent work, the Japanese Noh drama Taniko.

19 June: On Juneteenth, we direct readers to two passionate meditations from playwright and director Tazewell Thompson on staging Lost in the Stars in South Africa and the United States (the latter accompanied by interviews with members of the cast and creative team from the 2016 revival at Washington National Opera).

11 June: Weill’s Violin Concerto has never been featured in the Newsletter despite its prominence in the discography. Ninety-five years to the day after the world premiere, here is a review of a performance in 1993 by Michael Von der Linn, who offers concise and intelligent commentary on the work. And if we may be permitted to venture off the beaten Newsletter path, we also direct you to a more recent interview with violinist Benjamin Schmid conducted by the Concerto’s publisher, Universal Edition.

8 June: In honor of the world premiere of Die sieben Todsünden on 7 June 1933, we offer not one but two highlights: Horst Koegler’s survey of Weill ballets in Europe after World War II (1985) and a feature covering the performance history of the work prompted by Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s New York City Ballet production of 2011.

4 June: In June 1936, Weill repaired to the Group Theatre’s summer retreat in Trumbull, Connecticut to prepare for his first Broadway show, Johnny Johnson. J. Bradford Robinson took a close look at “Johnny’s Song” and Weill’s early engagement with American popular song form in the Fall 1997 Newsletter.

29 May: Just for the heck of it, The First Scandal of Lenya’s Career, as recounted by Lenya’s longtime musical assistant and confidante, Lys Symonette in 1984.

22 May: On the anniversary of the first performance of Das Berliner Requiem in 1929, we present Professor Amy Wlodarski’s history of this enigmatic work (2008).

20 May: On this day in 1947, Weill arrived in Palestine to see his family for the first time since 1935. In 1990, the Newsletter offered this account of the visit.

11 May: In memory of Rosalind Elias, who both performed in Blitzstein’s Regina and directed it, here is her tribute to Blitzstein from 2012.

8 May: On the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, we offer David Drew’s account of the 50th anniversary observations in Germany (1995).

5 May: Congratulations to Anthony Davis on winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music! Read our interview from 1995.

1 May: In view of the cancelation of the Finals of the 2020 Lotte Lenya Competition, we present our report on the Finals from 2017.

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