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Lotte Lenya: A Detailed Chronology 1922-1935

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. Doubtful dates are noted with a question mark.

Lives by selling jewelry, a gift from a wealthy lover in Zurich, and looks for work in the theater. Auditions for Zaubernacht, Kurt Weill's first stage score, and he plays "The Blue Danube" for the audition. They do not see each other again for almost two years.

4 May 1923
Swiss order of deportation against Lenya is formally lifted.

September 1923
Gets a job with a troupe that tours the Berlin suburbs performing Shakespeare, with a producer-director named Otto Kirchner. She plays Maria in Twelfth Night, at a salary of three million Marks per performance, which later in the year inflates to more than one billion Marks.

Autumn 1923
Révy brings Georg Kaiser, one of Germany's leading Expressionist playwrights, to a performance of Twelfth Night. Révy introduces the two after the performance, and Kaiser takes a liking to Lenya. After her engagement ends, he invites her to his country house at Grünheide, an eastern suburb of Berlin on Lake Peetz, for the weekend. Shortly thereafter, the Kaisers invite her to live with them, working as a nanny and housekeeper. She accepts the offer and moves to Grünheide.

Performs in Franz Grillparzer's play, Weh' dem, der lügt, in Berlin [role and theater unknown].

May-June 1924
Meets Kurt Weill when he is invited to Grunheide to continue a collaboration with Georg Kaiser. According to Lenya's later recollections, she met him at the train station at Kaiser's request and rowed him across the lake to the Kaisers' home. During the crossing, Weill recalled her audition for Zaubernacht nearly two years before. They begin their relationship shortly thereafter.

May 1925
Kaiser offers Weill the use of his small Berlin apartment at Luisenplatz 3. Lenya moves from Grünheide, and Weill and Lenya begin living together, although Lenya frequently stays at Grünheide and continues to do so for the next two or three years.

28 January 1926
Lenya and Weill are married in a civil ceremony in the Charlottenburg section of Berlin. Lenya later recalled that they got married to eliminate local gossip.

May-June 1926
Plays the role of Feemy Evans in George Bernard Shaw's The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet in Berlin.

June-July 1926
Weill and Lenya take a delayed honeymoon in Zurich, northern Italy, and Cannes.

Autumn 1926
Performs as an alternate in V.A. Jager-Schmidt's comedy Kukuli at the Lustspielhaus in Berlin.

Winter 1926-27
Lenya plays Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the Wallnertheater in Berlin, directed by Emil Lind.

17 July 1927
For the first time, Lenya performs in a work by Kurt Weill, Mahagonny, singing the role of Jessie, directed by Bertolt Brecht and Walther Brügmann. The "Songspiel," with texts by Brecht, was staged at the Deutsche Kammermusik in Baden-Baden, along with short operas by Ernst Toch, Paul Hindemith, and Darius Milhaud. Lenya, who had not been well known before, and had not been known at all as a singer, attracts some notice.

May 1928
Weill and Brecht, with Lenya and others, travel to the French Riviera to complete work on their new show, tentatively entitled Die Ludenoper, based on John Gay's Beggar's Opera.

31 August 1928
The premiere of Die Dreigroschenoper at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin, with Lenya in the role of Jenny. Against Weill's wishes, Lenya performs even though her name was omitted from the program. Lenya's success leads to an active career for the next three years, including additional stints in Die Dreigroschenoper as Jenny and Lucy.

October 1928
Lenya and Weill move to a new apartment at Bayernallee 14, Charlottenburg.

28 November 1928
Opens as Charmian Peruchacha in Lion Feuchtwanger's play Die Petroleuminseln at the Berliner Staatstheater, directed by Jürgen Fehling.

20 December 1928
Lenya's father, Franz Blamauer, dies in Vienna at the age of 63.

4 January 1929
Opens as Ismene in Sophocles's Oedipus auf Kolonos at the Berliner Staatstheater, directed by Leopold Jessner.

30 March 1929
Opens as Alma in Marieluise Fleisser's play Pioniere in Ingolstadt at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, directed by Jakob Geis.

31 August 1929
Opens as Lucille in Georg Büchner's play Dantons Tod at the Volksbühne, directed by Karlheinz Martin.

14 October 1929
Opens as Ilse in Frank Wedekind's play Frühlings Erwachen at the Volksbühne, directed by Karlheinz Martin.

31 December 1929
Opens as Fern Barry in Ferdinand Reyher's play Harte Bandagen at the Berliner Staatstheater, directed by Leopold Jessner.

24 February 1930
Records two songs from the Weill-Brecht opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny: "Alabama-Song" and "Denn wie man sich bettet" with "The Three Admirals," conducted by Theo Mackeben, on Ultraphon 371.

Spring 1930
Records two songs from the Weill-Brecht opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny: "Alabama-Song" and "Denn wie man sich bettet" with ensemble and orchestra for Homocord (H3671).

9 March 1930
Attends premiere of Weill-Brecht opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny in Leipzig. The performance is disrupted by Nazi demonstrators.

31 March 1930
Opens as Sally in Michael Gold's revue Das Lied von Hoboken at the Volksbühne, directed by Heinz Dietrich Kenter.

Autumn 1930?
Records two songs by Weill and Brecht from the play Happy End: "Surabaya-Johnny" and "Bilbao-Song," for Orchestrola (2311), conducted by Theo Mackeben, musical director for the stage performance.

19 September-15 November 1930
Filming of the German version of Georg Wilhelm Pabst's Die Dreigroschenoper. Lenya, as Jenny, sings "Seeräuberjenny," making it one of her signature songs (the song was sung by Polly in the stage version). The film is released 19 February 1931.

7 October 1930
Opens as Frau Götz in Paul Kornfeld's play Jud Süss at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, directed by Leopold Jessner.

December 1930
Appears as Tanja in Valentin Katayev's play Die Quadratur des Kreises at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin, directed by Francesco von Mendelssohn.

7 December 1930
Records "Aus der Drei-Groschen-Oper" (Selections from Die Dreigroschenoper) with Kurt Gerron, Erich Ponto, Willy Trenk-Trebitsch, Erika Helmke, and the Lewis Ruth Band conducted by Theo Mackeben for Ultraphon (A752-A755). She sings "Seeräuberjenny," "Barbara-Song," "Zuhälterballade," "Eifersuchtsduett," and "Moritat und Schlusschoral," taking several songs from Polly's role. She also sings the part of Mrs. Peachum in the "Erstes Dreigroschenfinale," taking the notes down one octave.

June 1931
Erwin Piscator offers Lenya a role in a film based on Anna Seghers's novel, Der Aufstand der Fischer von Santa Barbara, to be filmed in the Soviet Union. She accepts.

Summer 1931
While Lenya is in Russia, Weill works full-time on a new opera, Die Bürgschaft, with librettist and designer Caspar Neher. At some point, he begins an affair with Neher's wife, Erika.

28 July 1931
The German cast and crew travel to Moscow; they remain in Russia for the next three months. Virtually no work is done on the film; in the end only a Russian version is made, in which Lenya does not appear.

18 October 1931
Weill tells Lenya that he has bought a new house, partly as a birthday present for her, at Wissmannstrasse 7 in Kleinmachnow (a suburb of Berlin). As far as can be determined, Lenya never actually lives with Weill in the house, but the deed is in her name.

8 November 1931
Returns from Russia and begins preparations for the Berlin run of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.

21 December 1931
Opens as Jenny in Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the Theater am Kurfürstendamm, directed and designed by Caspar Neher, conducted by Alexander von Zemlinsky. Weill has revised the score to accommodate non-operatic singers. It runs over fifty consecutive performances.

January 1932
Records "Querschnitt aus der Oper Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny," for Electrola (E.H. 736) with the Ensemble and Orchestra of the Theater am Kurfürstendamm, conducted by Hans Sommer.

26 April 1932
Opens as Jenny in an abridged version of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the Raimund-Theater in Vienna, directed by Hans Heinsheimer. Meets Otto Pasetti (who sings the role of Jimmy) and soon after moves in with him. Lenya and Weill are now formally separated, although they remain in regular contact by letter.

Autumn 1932
Lenya's travels between 1932 and 1935 cannot be documented precisely, because the relevant pages from her passport for those years have been removed. At some point she and Pasetti travel to Monte Carlo, where they spend most of the next several months, at least until Spring 1933. They run up significant gambling debts.

11 December 1932
Appears as Jessie in Mahagonny (Songspiel) at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, to great critical acclaim. Lenya and Pasetti spend most of December in Paris and return to Vienna around the new year.

Early 1933
Begins divorce proceedings against Weill in Germany. The divorce may be partly tactical, as it will allow Lenya to recover some of Weill's assets which would otherwise be seized by the Nazis. Throughout 1933, Lenya and Pasetti attempt to liquidate assorted assets (including the house) and get the money out of Germany.

18 February 1933
Attends the premiere of Der Silbersee, a play with music by Weill and Georg Kaiser, in Leipzig. This is her first reunion with Weill since December 1932. (The play gets glowing reviews, but it is forced by the Nazis to close on 4 March.)

March 1933
Weill is now in some danger from the Nazis, who have taken power. Lenya and Louise Hartung (a Berlin photographer and friend) pack some of Weill's possessions at Wissmannstrasse 7 and drive him to Munich, where they check in to the Four Seasons Hotel. Lenya leaves Weill and proceeds to Vienna. Weill returns briefly to Berlin, but decides to flee a few days later. On 22 March, Caspar and Erika Neher drive Weill to France, and he leaves Germany for good, settling in Paris soon after.

5 April 1933
Meets Weill in Nancy. He offers her and Pasetti parts in his next work, a ballet with songs, with lyrics by Brecht. The piece, to be titled Die sieben Todsünden, is to open in Paris in June.

7 June 1933
Opens as Anna I in Die sieben Todsünden at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, choreographed and directed by George Balanchine. Although the engagement is relatively short, the company will also perform in London during July.

20 June 1933
Appears as Jessie in a concert version of Mahagonny (Songspiel) at La Sérénade in Paris.

30 June 1933
Opens as Anna I in Die sieben Todsünden (in an English version by Lenya and the impresario Edward James, entitled Anna-Anna) at the Savoy Theatre in London. The production runs until 15 July.

18 July 1933
Appears in a concert performance of Mahagonny (Songspiel) at the Aeolian Hall in London. Leaves England shortly thereafter and goes to Berlin, partly to take care of legal and financial business.

18 September 1933
Final divorce decree handed down in Potsdam.

November 1933
Finalizes the sale of the house in Kleinmachnow. Reunites with Pasetti in San Remo, Italy for more gambling.

29 December 1933
Appears with Pasetti in a concert performance of Mahagonny (Songspiel) at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

January-June 1934
Lives with Pasetti in San Remo, where they continue to gamble and try to get Weill's money and property out of Germany. Success at both efforts is limited.

16 August 1934
Opens as Pussy Angora in Walter Kollo's revue Lieber reich aber glücklich at the Corso-Theater in Zurich, directed by Hans Curjel. Lenya stays in Zurich until October, when she moves into Weill's house in Louveciennes, a suburb of Paris. By this time she seems to have broken off entirely with Pasetti. Some time in late 1934 or early 1935, she has a brief affair with the painter Max Ernst.

7 February 1935
Has minor surgery to remove a vaginal polyp in Paris.

8 April 1935
Travels to London to stay with Weill. Lenya has been studying English on and off for two or three years; one of her reasons for going to London may be to continue her studies.

August 1935
Weill, in Salzburg working on the Biblical pageant Der Weg der Verheissung (text by Franz Werfel), informs Lenya that he will go to the United States early in September to supervise the music for a New York production. He invites her to sail with him and tells her how to arrange for the necessary visas.

2 September 1935
Lenya returns to Paris and obtains a temporary visa for travel in the U.S.

4 September 1935
Lenya and Weill sail from Cherbourg on the SS Majestic.

1898-1921 | 1935-1950