sign up button

Lotte Lenya: A Detailed Chronology 1898-1921

This chronology lists Lenya's major performances, records key events in her life, and presents a skeletal picture of her movements and relationships. Lenya recalls a number of performances--especially from her time in Zurich and early years in Berlin--for which no corroboration has been found; such performances are not included in this listing. Accounts of her early life are largely based on her own recollections, which, in many cases, are vague or contradictory. Under these circumstances, dates have been assigned as exactly as possible, at least to within a year. Doubtful dates are noted with a question mark.

18 October 1898
Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer born at Linzerstrasse 87 in the Penzing district of Vienna to Franz Paul Blamauer and Johanna Teuschl Blamauer. She was the third child born to the Blamauers; the first, also named Karoline, had died; the second, Franz, was born in 1897. Her brother Maximilian was born in 1900; her sister Maria in 1906.

1902 or 1903
The family moves to Ameisgasse 38 in the same district. Karoline sings and dances in a neighborhood circus with a tambourine and learns how to walk a tightrope.

Begins Volksschule (elementary school), then moves to a different school after one year. After the third year she moves to a school for gifted children in Hietzing, a more prosperous area than Penzing.

Begins Bürgerschule (middle school).

Graduates from Bürgerschule, and spends the summer working in the Ita hat factory in Vienna, in what is supposed to be the beginning of a four-year apprenticeship.

Summer 1913
Travels to Zurich, arrives on 18 September 1913, and moves in with her aunt on Zeunerstrasse 7. She begins taking ballet lessons with Steffi Herzeg, the ballet mistress at the Stadttheater, and earns money as a maid for a theatrical photographer Alexander Ehrenzweig. Within a few months, she moves into the Ehrenzweig home at Kreuzstrasse 10.

6 May 1914
Returns to Vienna for the summer, where she learns that her parents have separated. World War I begins on 3 August 1914. Unable to travel without a contract from the Zurich Stadttheater, she writes a frantic letter to the Intendant, Alfred Reucker, who provides it.

31 August 1914
Returns to Zurich by train, moving back into the Ehrenzweig home. She continues ballet lessons and acting training at the theater.

Autumn 1914
Formally hired as an apprentice in the Zurich Stadttheater ballet company, at a salary of 60 francs per month. Late in 1914 or early in 1915, she begins taking private acting lessons with young director Richard Révy. Later Révy will use her in some of the productions he directs.

1914-1915 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Zurich Pfauen Theater: Kehm and Frehsee's Als ich noch im Flügelkleide (Jettchen Uenzen), Hermann's Jettchen Gebert (Rosalie Jacoby; her first performance under Révy's direction), Suppé's Fatinitza (Gregor).

Spring 1915?
Moves in with the Edelmann family; her best friend is their daughter Greta, also a ballet student.

1915-1916 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Pfauen Theater: Als ich noch im Flügelkleide (Jettchen Uenzen), Anzengruber's Der G'wissenswurm (Annemirl).
Stadttheater: Will's Dornröschen, Vorspiel only (Immergrün), Als ich noch im Flügelkleide (Jettchen Uenzen), Lehár's Die lustige Witwe (Margot), R. Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (hairdresser's assistant).

Autumn 1916?
Becomes a full-fledged member of the corps de ballet, at a salary of 160 francs per month. Her salary increases every year thereafter.

17 October 1916
Moves to Kilchberg, Switzerland.

1916-1917 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Pfauen Theater: Blumenthal and Kadelburg's Im weissen Rössl (Mirzl), Friedmann-Friedrich's Logierbesuch (Rosie).
Stadttheater: Weinberger's Drei arme Teufel (erstes Mädchen), Fall's Der Waltenbummler (erste Freundin), Blumenthal and Kadelburg's Im weissen Rössl (Mirzl).

26 February 1917
Moves back to Zurich.

9 March 1917
Appears in a Tanzabend (Dance Evening) at the Pfauen Theater, dancing to J. Strauss's "Leichtes Blut," Gounod's "Bacchanale," Lanner's "'D'Schönbrunner' Walzer," an ensemble number, and several "National-Tänze."

1917-1918 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Pfauen Theater: Shaw's Cäsar und Cleopatra (Iras), Wedekind's Franziska (Karaminka; directed by Wedekind), Blümner's (adapted from Aristophanes) Krieg und Frieden (Megarer's daughter), Bahr's Das Konzert (Selma Maier), Wedekind's Der Kammersänger (ein Listjunge).
Stadttheater: Lehár's Der Sterngucker (Mizzi), Der Rosenkavalier, conducted by Richard Strauss (hairdresser's assistant), Stolz's Lang, lang ist's her (Lauserl), Offenbach's Blaubart (third page).

11 September 1917
Appears in a Tanzabend at the Pfauen Theater, dancing to Roswitsch's "Russischer Nationaltanz" and J. Strauss's "Kaiserwalzer."

Spring 1918
With Greta Edelmann, becomes embroiled in a contract dispute with the Stadttheater. Despite the qualms of some members of the theater management, their contracts are renewed for the 1918-1919 season.

2 July 1918
Performs in a Tanzabend at the Pfauen Theater, dancing to Brahms's Dance in F-sharp minor and a Strauss waltz.

Summer 1918
Visits her family in Vienna. She finds that her mother has taken up with Ernst Heinisch, who now lives with the family on Ameisgasse.

Summer 1918
Ingeborg Ruvina becomes Ballettmeisterin at the Stadttheater. She emphasizes the Dalcroze method, which Karoline prefers to more traditional ballet instruction. However, a personality conflict soon manifests itself, and becomes worse over the next three years.

1918-1919 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Pfauen Theater: Fulda's Die verlorene Tochter (Margot Straub), Jettchen Gebert (Rosalie Jacoby), Im weissen Rössl (Resi), Kornfeld's Die Verführung (Dancer), Auernheimer's Die grosse Leidenschaft (Emilie), Cäsar und Cleopatra (Iras), Faesi's Die Fassade (Lady), Schnitzler's Das weite Land (a Frenchwoman).
Stadttheater: Lehár's Wo die Lerche singt (Juleza), J. Strauss's Der Zigeunerbaron (Sepl), Hermann's Der gestiefelte Kater (rescued child), Fall's Die Rose von Stambul (Fatme), Cäsar und Cleopatra (Iras).

4 September 1918
Dances in the second act of J. Strauss's Die Fledermaus in the Stadttheater. She dances with three others, including her teacher and her friend Greta Edelmann, to "An der schönen blauen Donau."

Moves to Pension Griese at Dufourstrasse 177. She has previously been living with a Swiss sculptor named Mario Petrucci, and apparently moves to avoid scandal. At some point during 1919, Karoline becomes pregnant and has an abortion in Geneva.

22 January 1919
Opens as Lisiska in Frank Wedekind's Tod und Teufel in the Pfauen Theater, directed by Wedekind.

8 May 1919
Opens as Minna in Kurt Götz's Nachtbeleuchtung at the Pfauen Theater, directed by Richard Révy.

1919-1920 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Pfauen Theater: Frank and Geyer's Ein reizender Mensch (Monika), Strindberg's Kamaraden (Therese), Rivoire and Besnard's Mein Freund Teddy (Francine), Gordon and Götz's Die Rutschbahn (young lady), Anzengruber's Der Meineidbauer (Crescenz), Kaiser's Von Morgens bis Mitternachts (first daughter), Tolstoy's Der lebende Leichnam (Sascha), Enderlin's Die Fräulein von Saint-Cyr (Marie von Havrincourt), Die verlorene Tochter (Margot Straub), Tod und Teufel (Lisiska).
Stadttheater: Offenbach's Die schöne Helena (Leaena), Schubert's Hannerl (Frau Dussek), Lehár's Eva (Schischi), Ascher's Der Künstlerpreis (Mila), Der Meineidbauer (Crescenz), Eysler's Ein Tag im Paradies (Baroness Traxler), Millöcker's Der Bettelstudent (von Richthofen), Mein Freund Teddy (Francine).

October 1919
Mario Petrucci goes to Vienna and arranges for Karoline's sister Maria to visit Switzerland. She spends two months in Zurich with Karoline, then spends two months at a rest home in the Alps, returning to Vienna in January 1920.

3 February 1920
Appears in a Tanzabend at the Pfauen Theater, dancing in the following works: "Miniaturen," "Grillen," "Der Tag," "Danse," and two ensemble numbers.

13 March 1920
Dances in the third act of Nedbal's Polenblut at the Stadttheater, performing "Krakoviac" with fellow ballerinas Greta Edelmann and Nina Zutter.

23 March 1920
With Greta Edelmann and Nina Zutter, files a complaint against Frau Ruvina, accusing her of chronic lateness to rehearsals, discourtesy, and favoritism. A month later, after several meetings, Frau Ruvina is mildly reprimanded by the theater, but Karoline undergoes a series of hearings and police investigations culminating in an order of deportation issued by the Zurich police on 26 June 1920. According to the order, the grounds for deportation are failure to pay full taxes and an immoral lifestyle, which includes living in "concubinage" with Mario Petrucci. The order is appealed, and the Stadttheater's Employees' Council, which includes Richard Révy, springs to her defense. The appeal continues for several months and causes a great deal of conflict within the ballet company and between the theater and the city government.

23 April 1920
Appears in a dance recital program featuring Bizet's Djamileh at the Stadttheater. She dances in Dalcroze's "Der Tag" and two ensemble numbers.

1920-1921 season
Appears in small roles in the following works:
Pfauen Theater: G. Hauptmann's Rose Bernd (Marthel; listed in the program as "Lotte Blamauer" for the first time), Als ich noch im Flügelkleide (Wilhelmine Müller), Wedekind's Lulu (Hugenberg), Tagore's Das Postamt (Ludha), O. Straus's Der letzte Walzer (Petruschka), Büchner's Wozzek (Käthe), Shakespeare's König Heinrich IV (Franz), Shakespeare's König Heinrich V (Boy).
Stadttheater: Fatinitza (Dimitri and Zuleika), Jessel's Schwarzwaldmädel (Lorle), Rose Bernd (Marthel), Der letzte Walzer (Petruschka).

June 1921
Stays in Flims, Switzerland (about 50 miles southeast of Zurich). Around this time, Richard Révy resigns from the Stadttheater and prepares to move to Berlin. He encourages her to try her luck there as well.

Summer 1921?
Karoline Blamauer adopts the stage name Lotte Lenja (changed to Lenya shortly after she moves to the U.S.) on the advice of Richard Révy. "Lotte" comes from one of her given names, Charlotte. The origin of "Lenja" is not so clear, but it is probably invented by Révy, based on the character Jelena in Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya. Her nickname for Révy is "Vanya."

3 October 1921
Leaves Zurich for Berlin with Greta Edelmann. It is unclear if she is expelled from Switzerland, or leaves of her own free will. She moves into a boarding house on the Lützowstrasse.

1970-1981 | 1922-1935