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Kurt Weill: A Detailed Chronology 1934-1940

This chronology lists Weill's works, records key events in his life, and tracks most of his moves and travels. Works are generally listed under the dates of their premiere followed by date of composition and collaborators in parentheses. If the work was not performed during Weill's lifetime, it is listed under its date of composition. Only the most significant unrealized projects are mentioned. Doubtful dates are noted with a question mark.

1-5 January 1934
Visits parents in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia.

February 1934
Begins work on Der Kuhhandel, an operetta with libretto by Robert Vambery. During January-May 1935 the collaborators adapt it for a production in England under the title A Kingdom for a Cow. (The premiere of the original German version is not given until 1994.) Weill looks for a French publisher and he transfers his performing rights from the German society (GEMA) to the Italian society (SIAE).

5 May 1934
Reports to Hans Heinsheimer that Josef von Sternberg would like him to write the music for Marlene Dietrich's next film. The project never materializes.

10 May 1934
Spends a few days in London, staying with Edward James at his residence at 35 Wimpole Street. At the end of the month both Caspar and Erika Neher visit Weill for a week in Louveciennes.

Summer 1934
"Complainte de la Seine" (M. Magre) and "Je ne t'aime pas" (M. Magre). Numerous cabaret performances by Lys Gauty.

16 June 1934
Spends ten days in Venice and sees Lenya before traveling on to Salzburg for negotiations with Max Reinhardt and Franz Werfel about Der Weg der Verheissung.

6 July 1934
Returns to London and stays again with Edward James for about 2-1/2 weeks.

August 1934
Takes a summer vacation in Italy with Caspar and Erika Neher before arriving on 14 August in Salzburg for meetings with Reinhardt and Werfel. Weill begins setting Werfel's text. On returning to Louveciennes, Weill finds that he is obliged to write at very short notice the songs and incidental music for Marie Galante, a stage adaptation by Jacques Deval of his best-selling novel.

October 1934
Lenya moves to Weill's house in Louveciennes.

11 October 1934
Symphony no. 2 [billed as "Symphonische Fantasie (Symphony no. 1)"] (January 1933-February 1934). Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam; Bruno Walter, conductor. Weill attends rehearsals and the performance. Walter conducts the symphony again in New York, December 13, 1934. Both times, critical reception is very poor.

22 December 1934
Marie Galante (Jacques Deval, August-September 1934). Théâtre de Paris; Edmond Mahieux, conductor, H. Henriot, director. The production runs for three weeks.

30 December 1934
Travels to Switzerland for three days, presumably to meet his parents who are still living in Germany.

1935
"Youkali" (Roger Fernay). An instrumental tango from Marie Galante is given lyrics by Roger Fernay, son of Paul Bertrand of Heugel.

January 1935
Travels to London to work on A Kingdom for a Cow and searches for film work. He stays at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly until March, when he rents an apartment at 7 Bramham Gardens, Earls Court.

April 1935
Lotte Lenya comes to London, presumably to study English. A performance of the Symphony no. 2 conducted by Désiré-Emile Inghelbrecht in Paris is well reviewed.

May-June 1935
Stays at Edward James's residence, probably without Lenya.

28 June 1935
A Kingdom for a Cow (January-May 1935, English lyrics by Desmond Carter; English book adapted from Vambery by Reginald Arkell). Savoy Theatre, London; Muir Matheson, conductor; Ernst Matray and Felix Weissberger, directors.

9 July 1935
Returns to Louveciennes; Lenya stays in London and receives her mail care of Gerty Simon, the photographer.

13 July 1935
Travels via Switzerland (where he meets the Nehers) and vacations with them in Italy and Novi, Yugoslavia. He spends three weeks in Salzburg, working with Werfel and Reinhardt, before returning to Louveciennes at the end of August.

August 1935
Finishes work on Der Weg der Verhei?ung in Louveciennes and Salzburg. The work is not performed in the original German version, but it is revised October 1935-December 1936 for an American production under the provisional title "The Road of Promise."

mid-August 1935
Further discussions with Reinhardt, Werfel, and Weisgal. The premiere is planned for January 1936 in New York. Weill invites Lenya to go to New York with him.

4 September 1935
Sails aboard the S.S. Majestic from Cherbourg with Lenya and Meyer Weisgal. Eleonora and Francesco von Mendelssohn travel with them.

10 September 1935
Arrives at New York Harbor. He and Lenya stay at the St. Moritz Hotel, Central Park South, New York, until February 1936.

October 1935
Attends a rehearsal of George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

November 1935
Meets with Brecht and with Marc Blitzstein in New York. Tries to arrange a Broadway performance of Mahagonny.

23 November 1935
Appears on WJZ radio (New York) to discuss the score of The Eternal Road in a one-hour program that features excerpts from the score performed by the NBC Symphony, conducted by Frank Black.

17 December 1935
The League of Composers sponsors a concert of excerpts from Mahagonny, Die Dreigroschenoper, Kingdom for a Cow, and Die Bürgschaft, with Lenya singing some numbers; it is coolly received.

January 1936
The production company for The Eternal Road (Der Weg der Verheissung) is declared bankrupt and the production is postponed. Werfel returns to Europe, Reinhardt goes to California, and Weill remains in New York.

February 1936
Weill and Lenya move to a less expensive hotel, the Park Crescent at 150 Riverside Drive. Weill obtains a new passport from the German consulate and explores various opportunities in the theater, notably the offer of a commission from the American Ballet and a performance of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny in Hartford. He hopes to set Wedekind's two-act pantomime The Empress of Newfoundland, but he cannot secure the rights.

March 1936
Heugel gives notice of termination of Weill's publishing contract. Weill meets Cheryl Crawford, a theater producer and founder of the Group Theatre who will be instrumental in helping Weill establish himself in America.

May 1936
Parents move to Palestine.

3 May 1936
Cheryl Crawford arranges for Weill to travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to work with Paul Green on a new musical.

4 June 1936
Spends a day with Lenya at Maxwell Anderson's home in New City, Rockland County. The two had met at a theatrical party during the previous winter after a performance of Anderson's Winterset.

June-August 1936
Weill, Lenya, Paul Green and Crawford join the Group Theatre at Pine Brook in Trumbull, Connecticut to work on Johnny Johnson. He introduces the cast to music from Die Dreigroschenoper; Marc Blitzstein is in attendance.

Summer 1936
The Fräulein and the Little Son of the Rich (Robert Graham). A "song drama" written for Lenya, unperformed.

July 1936
Weill is desolate when Erika Neher asks for an end to their protracted affair.

August 1936
Weill and Lenya live at Crawford's house in Bridgeport, Connecticut and in September move to her apartment at 455 East 51st Street, where they live for the next year.

November 1936
Signs a contract with music publisher Chappell for publication of new works, beginning with Johnny Johnson. The production team for The Eternal Road is reassembled.

19 November 1936
Johnny Johnson (June-November 1936, Paul Green). 44th St. Theatre, New York; Lehman Engel, conductor, Lee Strasberg, director. 68 performances.

19 December 1936
Speaks at I.L.G.W.U. Cultural Hour program devoted to Johnny Johnson; Lee Strasberg also speaks, and members of the cast perform songs from the show.

7 January 1937
The Eternal Road (1934-1936, Franz Werfel, with an English translation by Ludwig Lewisohn and additional lyrics by Charles Alan). Manhattan Opera House, New York; Max Reinhardt, director, Norman Bel Geddes, designer, Isaac van Grove and Leo Kopp, conductors. 153 performances. Weill's contribution is praised, but press coverage of the music is dominated by the celebrity of Max Reinhardt and the size of the spectacle. (The original German version, Der Weg der Verheissung, is not performed until 1999.)

9 January 1937
Delivers a lecture, "Music in the Theatre," sponsored by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

19 January 1937
Weill and Lenya remarry in a civil ceremony in Westchester County, north of New York City.

January-June 1937
Travels to Hollywood to work with writer Clifford Odets and director Lewis Milestone on a film, The River Is Blue, and pursue other opportunities. Stays at the Roosevelt Hotel, moves to 6630 Whitley Terrace on 18 February, and on May 14 moves to 686 San Lorenzo Drive in Santa Monica. (Lenya stays at Cheryl Crawford's apartment, 455 East 51st Street, New York.) Weill makes further contacts with George and Ira Gershwin and George Antheil. He also plans a series of radio operas with Howard Dietz and tries to obtain the rights to adapt Ferenc Molnár's Liliom.

March-June 1937
Begins working with Sam and Bella Spewack, and E.Y. (Yip) Harburg on a musical play ("The Opera from Mannheim") about German refugee actors. Unfinished, lost.

March-April 1937
The River Is Blue, film score commissioned by Walter Wanger, Hollywood. The film's working title, Castles in Spain, is changed to The River is Blue, then to The Adventuress and Rising Tide before finally being released as Blockade. Weill explores film scoring and recording techniques. Both George Antheil and Charlie Chaplin are impressed with his music, but the score is eventually discarded by Wanger and replaced with one by Werner Janssen.

17 April 1937
A performance of the Symphony no. 2 under Bruno Walter is relatively well-received in Vienna.

May 1937
Accepts an offer to write music for a Fritz Lang film, You and Me, hoping that the money will enable him to continue his theater work.

27 May 1937
Supervises a performance of Der Lindberghflug at the Antheil Gallery in Hollywood. The next day he attends the successful Los Angeles premiere of Johnny Johnson at the Mayan Theatre, produced by the Federal Theatre Project.

July 1937
Returns to New York.

August 1937
Returns to North Carolina to work with Paul Green on The Common Glory, a musical pageant sponsored by the Federal Theatre Project. After working for four months they cannot agree on a story line and abandon the project.

27 August 1937
Applies for American citizenship after re-entering the U.S. from Canada on an immigrant visa. Madeleine Milhaud arranges to send Weill's belongings from Louveciennes to New York.

September 1937
Moves to duplex apartment at 231 East 62nd Street, New York. Actor Burgess Meredith encourages Weill to collaborate with H.R. Hays on a play about American folk hero Davy Crockett for production by the Federal Theatre Project.

29 September 1937
Ernst Josef Aufricht's production of L'opéra de quat'sous opens in Paris. Weill has composed two additional songs for Yvette Guilbert, "Pauv' Madam Peachum" and "Tu me démolis" (texts by Guilbert), but she probably does not sing them in the production.

November 1937
"Albumblatt für Erika," New York. Unpublished piano transcription of a section from The Eternal Road for Erika Neher.

13 December 1937
Travels to Hollywood with Lenya to work on the film score for You and Me, directed by Fritz Lang. They rent a cottage at 940 Ocean Front St. in Santa Monica.

1938
Two Folksongs of the New Palestine. "Havu l'venim" and "Baa M'nucha" (traditional texts; melodies by Mordecai Seira and Daniel Sambursky, respectively). Arranged for voice and piano and published by Nigun Press, New York, 1938.

January-April 1938
Davy Crockett (H.R. Hays). An unfinished show for the Federal Theatre Project.

February 1938
Returns with Lenya to New York.

April-May 1938
Travels to Hollywood to attend recording sessions for You and Me. Address: Villa Carlotta, 5959 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Lenya stays in New York and performs a night club act at Le Ruban Bleu on West 56th Street.

Spring 1938
You and Me, film score, lyrics by Sam Coslow and Johnny Burke, directed by Fritz Lang. Only nine of twenty-three music cues are credited to Weill alone. First screened in New York, June 1, 1938. "The Right Guy for Me" is published as sheet music by Famous Music Corp, 1938. Weill also begins work on Railroads on Parade for performance in the railroad pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair.

May 1938
Attempts to locate German recordings of Die Dreigroschenoper to give to Maxwell Anderson.

Summer 1938
Begins writing Knickerbocker Holiday with Maxwell Anderson and helps his brother Hans with his wife and daughter immigrate to the U.S.

Rents a country house 3-1/2 miles outside Suffern, New York: "Eastman Estate," Sky Meadow Road, Route 202, Ramapo, New York. From here he has easy access to Maxwell Anderson's and Burgess Meredith's homes in New City.

19 October 1938
Knickerbocker Holiday (June-September 1938, Maxwell Anderson). Barrymore Theatre, New York; Maurice Abravanel, conductor, Joshua Logan, director. 168 performances followed by a tour of seven cities in 1939. The actor Walter Huston creates Weill's first American hit, "September Song."

January 1939
Vacations with Lenya and the Andersons in Naples, Florida.

30 April 1939
Railroads on Parade (Spring 1938-Winter 1939, Edward Hungerford). New York World's Fair; Isaac van Grove, conductor, Charles Alan, director. Revised and performed again at the 1940 World's Fair.

Summer 1939
Works with Louis Simon and Harold Smith on an adapatation of Die Dreigroschenoper for an all-black cast. Although Smith apparently completes a script, the project does not go anywhere.

June 1939
Accepted as an "active member" member of ASCAP, the main performing rights organization in the United States. Throughout his career in America, Weill makes periodic petitions to the organization requesting an increase in his ranking.

6 June 1939
Leaves with Lenya by car for California, where he works during July with Maxwell Anderson on Ulysses Africanus, a musical based on Harry Stillwell Edwards's novella Eneas Africanus, 1919. Anderson had offered the title role to Paul Robeson, who declined it, and now the show is conceived for Bill Robinson. When Robinson had scheduling conflicts, Weill and Anderson abandoned the project. They later adapted and incorporated four songs from the show into Lost in the Stars, among them "Lost in the Stars."

13 November 1939
Madam, Will You Walk? Music for the Night Court scene in Act III of Sidney Howard's play. The play is poorly reviewed in Baltimore and Washington and does not move to New York.

December 1939
"Nannas Lied" (Bertolt Brecht), New York. Written for Lenya, Christmas, 1939.

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (Robert Frost), New York. Manuscript missing; a portion of a copyist's manuscript has survived.

20 January 1940
Two on an Island (December 1939, incidental music to the play by Elmer Rice). Broadhurst Theatre, New York. No music survives.

February 1940
Begins collaboration with Ira Gershwin and Moss Hart on Lady in the Dark.

3 February 1940
In an interview published in the New York Sun, Weill unreservedly commits himself to the development of Broadway's musical theater.

4 February 1940
The Ballad of Magna Carta (radio cantata, Maxwell Anderson). Columbia Broadcasting System, New York; Mark Warnow, conductor. Commissioned by Norman Corwin for his series The Pursuit of Happiness.

17 June 1940
Sends letters to Erika Mann and Bruno Frank to request their help in creating an organization of German exiles who would offer their services to the U.S. government to help combat Nazism.

15 July 1940
Meets Darius and Madeleine Milhaud upon their arrival in the United States.

August 1940
Takes a short vacation in Maine with Maxwell and Mab Anderson.

1929-1933 | 1941-1945