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Kurt Weill: A Detailed Chronology 1941-1945

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.

23 January 1941
Lady in the Dark (February-November 1940, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, book by Moss Hart). Alvin Theatre, New York; Maurice Abravanel, conductor; Moss Hart, director. 467 performances over two seasons plus a tour of ten cities in 1943. The premiere marks Weill's first unqualified success on Broadway and solidifies his career in America.

May 1941
The film rights to Lady in the Dark are sold to Paramount for $285,000, the highest price to date for a Broadway musical.

28 May 1941
Purchases Brook House in New City (Rockland County), New York, a home which Lenya keeps until her death in 1981. Their neighbors are Maxwell Anderson, actor Burgess Meredith, artist Henry Varnum Poor, cartoonist Milton Caniff, actress Helen Hayes, Charles MacArthur, author Bessie Breuer, and publisher William Sloane.

Summer 1941
Tries to set up a collaboration between himself, Ruth Page, and John LaTouche (after Paul Green declared himself unavailable) for a show based on the Bible stories and the evangelist Billy Sunday. The project does not pan out.

September 1941
Meets with Ben Hecht to discuss a possible collaboration, but Weill advises that his play, Lily of the Valley, does not need music.

5 October 1941
Fun to be Free (pageant by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur). Madison Square Garden, New York; Simon Rady, conductor; Brett Warren, director. Sponsored by Fight for Freedom, Inc.

January-June 1942
While searching in vain for new collaborators and meaningful projects, Weill uses his talents to support the war effort.

January 1942
Walt Whitman Songs: "Oh Captain! My Captain!," "Beat! Beat! Drums!," "Dirge for two veterans," New York. A fourth song, "Come up from the fields, father," was composed in 1947. Weill hopes that Paul Robeson will record them. "Beat! Beat! Drums!" is recorded in March by Helen Hayes (see below). All four songs were recorded in 1947 by tenor William Horne.

26 January 1942
The producers celebrate the first anniversary of Lady in the Dark by giving away war bonds at the performances.

February 1942
Tries to find a play for Lenya and suggests George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra with Walter Huston as the co-star.

February-April 1942
[Songs for the War Effort], New York.

  • "Song of the Free" (Archibald MacLeish)
  • "Schickelgruber" (Howard Dietz)
  • "One Morning in Spring" (St. Clair McKelway, lost)
  • "The Good Earth" (Oscar Hammerstein)
  • "Buddy on the Nightshift" (Oscar Hammerstein)
  • "Song of the Inventory" (Lewis Allan)
  • "We Don't Feel Like Surrendering Today" (Maxwell Anderson)
  • "Oh Uncle Samuel!" (Maxwell Anderson, melody by Henry C. Work)
  • "Toughen Up, Buckle Down, Carry On" (Dorothy Fields)

"Song of the Inventory" and other songs were used in "Lunchtime Follies" (see below).

14 February 1942
Registers for the draft (military service). Writes to Lenya that he is writing well, but wishes he had a opera to work on.

28 February 1942
Your Navy (incidental music for a radio program by Maxwell Anderson). Score is missing. Norman Corwin, director; Don Vorhees, conductor; Frederic March and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., narrators. Produced by NBC Radio, New York, the show aired on all four national radio networks.

31 March 1942
[Four Patriotic Melodramas]. Recorded by Helen Hayes; Roy Shields, conductor; Victor M 909. Title of recording: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Hayes recites the texts over Weill's orchestral arrangements of the following songs:

  • "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
  • "The Star Spangled Banner"
  • "America"
  • "Beat! Beat! Drums!"

Spring 1942
Begins work for the production committee for "Lunch Time Follies," presented by the American Theatre Wing. The "Follies" were performed in defense plants, but Weill, being an alien, was frequently denied admittance to the factories.

Corresponds with Clarence Muse, Paul Robeson, Brecht, and Adorno regarding an adaptation of Die Dreigroschenoper for an all-black cast in California. Angered by a proposal to reorchestrate the work for a jazz band and a proposed contract that would cede rights in perpetuity and pay him almost nothing, Weill agrees only to a one-time tryout in California. The production never takes place.

April 1942
Works on The Pirate, a musical based on Ludwig Fulda's play Der Seeräuber adapted by S.N. Behrman for production by the Playwrights' Company and Alfred Lunt. The collaboration never solidifies, and Weill withdraws from the project.

June 1942
Cheryl Crawford, now an independent producer, agrees to back Weill's proposed collaboration with Sam and Bella Spewack on a musical adaptation of F. Anstey's novel The Tinted Venus, for which Ogden Nash will write the lyrics. Weill offers the title role to Marlene Dietrich.

4 June 1942
"Song of the Free" (Archibald MacLeish). Roxy Theatre, New York, Bob Hannon, vocalist.

22 June 1942
First production of the "Lunchtime Follies" at the Todd Shipyards in Brooklyn (a tryout had taken place the previous week at the Wheeler Shipyard in Queens). Variety reports that the half-hour show "looks set to become a national institution." The "Follies" were produced at defense plants for at least two years thereafter.

August 1942
Russian War Relief (J. P. McEvoy). Nyack, New York. The piece is performed in a revue, Rockland Riot, to benefit Rockland for Russia.

30 September 1942
In California, Weill and Brecht meet for the first time since 1935. Weill discusses with Marlene Dietrich the lead role in One Man's Venus, the show he is working on with Bella Spewack. After Dietrich declines, Tilly Losch is considered.

November 1942
Resumes work for "Lunch Time Follies."

Darius Milhaud requests Weill's musical and financial advice when he is offered a job arranging Offenbach's music for La belle Hélène for a Broadway production. Weill tries to help, but ultimately the score is adapted by Erich Korngold.

February 1943
Ben Hecht calls a meeting of thirty Jewish authors and one composer (Weill) to discuss a concerted reaction to the killing of Jews in Germany. Only Weill and Moss Hart (and, soon afterwards, Billy Rose) pledge support.

9 March 1943
We Will Never Die (Ben Hecht). "A memorial dedicated to the Two Million Jewish Dead of Europe." Madison Square Garden, New York; Isaac van Grove, conductor; Moss Hart, director. The production traveled to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Hollywood; it was also widely broadcast.

April 1943
Finally despairing of the Spewack Venus script, Cheryl Crawford engages the celebrated humorist S.J. Perelman to write an entirely new book.

3 April 1943
"Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib" (March 1942, Bertolt Brecht). Hunter College, New York. Lenya performs this song and three songs from Die Dreigroschenoper in a concert entitled "We Fight Back," a promotional event to sell war bonds to a German-speaking audience.

May 1943
Brecht and Ruth Berlau visit Weill at Brook House where the three begin work on an operatic version of The Good Soldier Schweik and The Good Woman of Sezuan, which is to be "half-opera." Neither collaboration bears fruit, and no music survives.

June 1943
Works on film versions of Lady in the Dark and Knickerbocker Holiday in Hollywood. Weill is approached by MGM to write a film score. He tries again to persuade Marlene Dietrich to star in One Touch of Venus. He returns to New York in July via St. Louis.

27 August 1943
Becomes a U.S. citizen.

7 October 1943
One Touch of Venus (June 1942-February 1943, June-September 1943, lyrics by Ogden Nash, book by S. J. Perelman and Ogden Nash). Imperial Theatre, New York; Maurice Abravanel, conductor; Elia Kazan, director. 567 performances over two seasons, followed by a tour to at least four cities in 1945.

November 1943
Works with Ira Gershwin on the film Where Do We Go From Here? in Hollywood, where he and Lenya take an apartment at 881 Moraga Drive in Bel Air. It becomes Weill's most ambitious film score, even inclulding a "mini-opera" for the Columbus sequence.

November-December 1943
Arranges eight songs for Lenya to record on Bost Records (BA 8): "Surabaya Johnny," "Denn wie man sich bettet," "J'attends un navire," "Complainte de la Seine," "Lost in the stars," and "Lover man," "Barbara-Song," and "Kanonensong" (the last two are not recorded). Weill supervises the recording and perhaps plays the piano accompaniment.

January 1944
The cast album for One Touch of Venus is released by Decca.

January-March 1944
Further negotiations with Brecht regarding Der gute Mensch von Sezuan, resulting in a collaboration agreement.

February 1944
The film version of Lady in the Dark starring Ginger Rogers is released by Paramount. Weill returns to New York in late Feburary.

mid-April 1944
The film version of Knickerbocker Holiday is released by United Artists, starring Nelson Eddy and Charles Coburn.

Spring 1944
"Wie lange noch?" (Walter Mehring). Recorded by Lenya for the Office of War Information, intended for broadcast in Germany behind enemy lines. Lenya also records "Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?" for the OWI.

Producer Billy Rose invites Weill to write a ballet score for Anton Dolin to be included in the revue The Seven Lively Arts. Weill declines but suggests Stravinsky, who composes Scènes du ballet for the production.

April-May 1944
Salute to France (Maxwell Anderson). Music for a propaganda film starring Burgess Meredith, directed by Jean Renoir and Garson Kanin, and produced by the U.S. Office of War Information. The film was released in both English and French versions.

late June 1944
Travels to Hollywood for collaboration with Edwin Justus Mayer and Ira Gershwin on The Firebrand of Florence. He rents a house at 10640 Taranto Way, Bel Air and attends recording sessions for the film Where Do We Go From Here? Lenya joins him in mid-September.

October 1944
Completes the rehearsal score of The Firebrand of Florence and reluctantly renounces the Brecht project, having failed to find a Broadway producer for it. He and Lenya return to New York.

22 March 1945
The Firebrand of Florence (July-December 1944, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, book by Edwin Justus Mayer). Alvin Theatre, New York; Maurice Abravanel, conductor; John Murray Anderson, director. 43 performances. The show opens to poor reviews and is Weill's only flat-out Broadway failure.

April 1945
Travels to Hollywood, staying at the Bel Air Hotel to work on the film score of One Touch of Venus. He considers other projects including Molière's Le médecin malgré lui with Maxwell Anderson and an adaptation of Le chapeau de paille with René Clair, all the while hoping that his next project will be an opera. He meets Brecht on 18 April and corresponds with Paul Robeson concerning a "black Oedipus" opera. Other operatic project ideas include Gone with the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, Winterset, and Moby Dick. He attends a screening of the final version of Where Do We Go From Here? (20th Century-Fox) on 29 April.

April 1945
Where Do We Go From Here? (film score, 20th Century-Fox, 1944), lyrics by Ira Gershwin, screenplay by Morris Ryskind, directed by Gregory Ratoff.

8 May 1945
Celebrates the end of the war in Europe in a heartfelt letter to Lenya.

1934-1940 | 1945-1950