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Lotte Lenya: A Detailed Chronology 1935-1950

This chronology lists Lenya's major performances, records key events in her life, and presents a skeletal picture of her movements and relationships. Doubtful dates are noted with a question mark.

10 September 1935
Lenya and Weill arrive in New York and move into the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South.

1 December 1935
Max Reinhardt, director of Der Weg der Verheissung, announces that Lenya will take a role in the production, scheduled to open January 1936. The opening is postponed for a full year.

17 December 1935
Performs excerpts from Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and the individual songs "Seeräuberjenny," "Barbara-Song," (from Die Dreigroschenoper) and "J'attends un navire" from Marie Galante. The occasion is "An Evening in Honor of Kurt Weill," held by the League of Composers, in New York at the Cosmopolitan Club. Other artists perform excerpts from Weill's works Die Bürgschaft and A Kingdom for a Cow. Neither Weill nor Lenya is received with enthusiasm.

Early 1936
Weill and Lenya move to the Hotel Park Crescent in New York.

7 April 1936
Lenya signs a contract to appear in a revue titled New Faces of 1936, produced by Leonard Sillman. Within a month, the contract is voided by mutual consent and Lenya does not appear.

June 1936
Weill and Lenya move to Connecticut for the summer to work with the Group Theatre on Weill's first American stage work, Johnny Johnson (book and lyrics by Paul Green). Weill spends most of his time teaching American actors to sing his way; Lenya has little to do. She has a brief affair with Green.

Autumn 1936
Lenya and Weill move into Cheryl Crawford's apartment on E. 51st Street in New York; preparations for The Eternal Road (English version of Der Weg der Verheissung) get underway again for a January opening.

7 January 1937
Opens as Miriam in The Eternal Road at the Manhattan Opera House in New York, directed by Max Reinhardt. The show is a succès d'estime, but runs out of money and closes after 153 performances.

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

Summer 1937
Lenya and Weill move into a new apartment on E. 62nd Street in New York.

27 August 1937
Lenya and Weill return from Canada, where they have obtained immigrant visas.

24 October 1937
Performs as The Suicide in Marc Blitzstein's radio opera I've Got the Tune, which is broadcast over CBS Radio.

13 December 1937
Lenya and Weill travel to Hollywood, where Weill has a contract to score a film You and Me. They stay until early February 1938.

April-May 1938
Takes a nightclub engagement at Le Ruban Bleu on W. 56th Street in New York. She performs several songs by Weill, as well as a song written especially for her by Marc Blitzstein called "Few Little English." The appearance helps to make her name and talent known among the sophisticated crowd in New York, but it does not lead to any immediate offers.

Late May 1938
Lenya and Weill rent a cottage in Suffern, NY, near Maxwell Anderson's house; Weill and Anderson begin work on their first show together, Knickerbocker Holiday.

Autumn 1938
Meets Walter Huston, star of Knickerbocker Holiday, and his wife Nan. Through them, she meets Mary Daniel, who will remain a close friend and regular visitor until her death in the late 1970's.

Christmas 1939
Weill sets a Brecht text, "Nannas Lied," as a Christmas present for Lenya. Apparently, she never performs the song in public. The lyric was part of Brecht's play, Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe, and had previously been set by Hanns Eisler.

28 May 1941
Lenya and Weill buy Brook House on South Mountain Road in New City, NY, next door to the Andersons. They join a colony of artists in the area, including cartoonists Milton Caniff and Bill Mauldin, painter Henry Varnum Poor, and actor Burgess Meredith. Lenya, Mab Anderson, and Bunny Caniff quickly become inseparable friends and card players.

Autumn 1941
Meets Howard Schwartz from New City with whom she has an on-and-off affair.

15 September 1941
Opens as Cissie in Maxwell Anderson's Candle in the Wind at the Colonial Theatre in Boston (out-of-town tryout). Anderson wrote the part especially for her.

22 October 1941
Candle in the Wind opens at the Shubert Theater in New York, directed by Alfred Lunt. Lenya gets good reviews, but the play is not so successful. It runs 95 performances, then goes on the road.

January 1942
Candle in the Wind begins its U.S. tour, which covers about forty cities and continues until the end of May. Lenya is able to see Schwartz occasionally while on tour.

June? 1942
Begins civil defense work in Rockland County, including looking for planes from a watchtower. This duty continues sporadically until the war is nearly over.

20 August 1942
Performs "Russian War Relief," a song by Weill and J.P. McEvoy, at a revue called Rockland Riot, a benefit for "Rockland for Russia" (a Russian war relief fund) at the Clarkstown Country Club in Nyack, NY.

3 April 1943
Performs in a concert entitled "We Fight Back" at Hunter College in New York. The concert is produced and performed by European exiles. Lenya sings "Moritat," "Seeräuberjenny," "Surabaya-Johnny," and a new song, "Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib," which Weill composed a year earlier on a new text by Brecht. Weill accompanies her at the piano.

October? 1943
Learns that Howard Schwartz has been killed in a plane crash; she is devastated by his untimely death.

November? 1943
Records Six Songs by Kurt Weill for Bost Records (BA 8) in New York. The recording is supervised by Weill. Lenya sings "Surabaya-Johnny," "Denn wie man sich bettet," "J'attends un navire," "Complainte de la Seine," "Lost in the Stars," and "Lover Man" (later revised as "Trouble Man").

Spring 1944
Records two of Weill's songs for the U.S. Office of War Information for use in radio broadcasts to Germany. One is "Wie lange noch," with lyrics by Walter Mehring; the other is "Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib," which she performed the previous year. She also records "Lied einer deutschen Mutter," with lyrics by Brecht and music by Paul Dessau.

5 May 1944
Becomes an American citizen.

Summer (July-September?) 1944
Takes voice lessons with Eva Gauthier.

23 February 1945
Opens as The Duchess in the operetta The Firebrand of Florence by Weill, Ira Gershwin, and Edwin Justus Mayer at the Shubert Theatre in Boston (out-of-town tryout).

22 March 1945
The Firebrand of Florence opens at the Alvin Theatre in New York, directed by John Murray Anderson. The show flops, running only 43 performances, and Lenya's performance is harshly reviewed. The show's quick failure effectively dissuades Lenya from acting for several years.

27 March and 12 April 1945
Appears on two radio shows for CBS, interviewed by Mary Margaret McBride and Adelaide Hawley, respectively.

Undergoes emergency appendectomy.

29 September 1948
Lenya's mother and sister arrive on a visit from Vienna, the first time Lenya has seen them since she left Europe. They stay at Brook House for almost two months.

17 March 1950
Weill has a heart attack and is taken to Flower Hospital in New York City.

3 April 1950
Weill dies of a heart attack at the hospital; the funeral is held near New City a few days later. For at least a month afterwards, Lenya is so distraught that neighbors are afraid to let her stay alone at night.

1922-1935 | 1950-1959