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Lotte Lenya: A Detailed Chronology 1970-1981

This chronology lists Lenya's major performances, records key events in her life, and presents a skeletal picture of her movements and relationships. Only the most significant of her hundreds of appearances on radio and television are included. Doubtful dates are noted with a question mark.

Spring 1970
Attempts to stop the production of an English adaptation of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the Anderson Theatre in New York, directed by Carmen Capalbo. Lenya and Stefan Brecht (son of Bertolt) are appalled by the production before and during previews, but are unable to prevent it from opening. The show closes in May after only about seven performances.

14 October 1970
Films an interview with Edwin Newman, which is broadcast later that month on NBC Television.

6-7 February 1971
Appears in a performance of Brecht on Brecht at the University of Cincinnati.

May 1971
Receives an award for achievement in theater from the Musical Theatre Society of Emerson College.

9 June 1971
Marries filmmaker Richard Siemanowski in a civil ceremony in Rockland County. They had met several months earlier when Lenya expressed interest in having a documentary about her and Weill made. Siemanowski does draft a script entitled "Lenya, and a Girl Named Jenny," but it is never filmed. Lenya informs only two or three close friends that she has married again.

16 June 1971
Travels to Amsterdam to participate in the Holland Festival performance of a concert adaptation of Weill's Der Silbersee by David Drew and Josef Heinzelmann (25-26 June 1971). She returns to the U.S. early in July. The performance is recorded on Unique Opera records (UORC--261-A), but it is not released commercially.

17 November-27 November 1971
Plays Mother Courage in a production of Mother Courage and her Children at the University of California, Irvine, directed by Herbert Machiz.

Early 1972
A pirate recording of Lenya's 1965 Carnegie Hall concert entitled "Kurt Weill Concert" is released on Rococo (4008).

14-22 April 1972
Performs as Jenny in The Threepenny Opera at Florida State University in Tallahassee. At the same time, the LeMoyne Art Foundation in Tallahassee holds an exhibit of Detwiler's paintings. This proves to be Lenya's last full-scale stage appearance.

19 October 1972
Broadcast of guest appearance on the television program What's My Line, where a panelist guesses her identity within one minute.

10 February 1973
Performs in "Bertolt Brecht zum 75. Geburtstag" at the Schauspiel Frankfurt. First on the program, Lenya sings "Ballade vom ertrunkenen Mädchen," "Seeräuberjenny," and "Bilbao-Song." The retrospective features readings and songs from Brecht's plays, poetry, and journals. The program is broadcast the next day on Hessischer Rundfunk.

April 1973
Receives an award at the United Nations from the city of Vienna for improving cultural relations between Austria and the U.S.

20 May 1973
Commissions David Drew to act as "General Manager and European Administrator of the Kurt Weill Estate." Drew becomes Lenya's representative in dealings with European publishers, agents, media, and performers in Europe.

6 June 1973
Divorces Siemanowski on the grounds of abandonment. In fact, she and Siemanowski have never lived together.

Begins to suffer from various health problems, including a hiatal hernia and arthritis.

12 February 1974
Broadcast of "Trio for Lovers," part of the CBS Daytime 90 series. Lenya plays Rosa Harcourt, owner of a music shop.

1 January 1975
Broadcast of Lenya's appearance on the Dick Cavett Show on ABC Television. Cavett learned the German words to the "Bilbao-Song," and he sings with her on the program, which is also broadcast in Germany on 9 March 1976.

16 May 1975
Appears on the Today Show, NBC.

Summer 1975
Cancels concert appearance at a major Kurt Weill festival in Berlin because of the aftereffects of an auto accident. The festival saw the premieres of several of Weill's early works.

22 July 1975
Broadcast of AM-NY on WABC-TV, New York. Lenya sings "There's Nowhere to Go but Up" (from Knickerbocker Holiday) and gives a brief interview.

28 April 1976
Attends a concert entitled "The Musical Theater of Kurt Weill" at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Lenya joins the chorus singing "Mack the Knife" as the encore.

28 May 1976
Broadcast of Lenya's contribution to the series of shorts, "Bicentennial Minutes," on CBS Television, which she recorded on 2 April.

15 November 1976
Opening of an exhibition at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center, New York, entitled "Weill-Lenya." Lenya had spent a large part of 1976 combing her and Weill's possessions to gather material for the exhibition. The exhibition runs until 12 March 1977. On 4 April, Lenya donates Weill's autograph score of Die sieben Todsünden to the Library.

March 1977
Films a scene with Burt Reynolds in Semi-Tough, directed by Michael Ritchie and produced by United Artists. Lenya plays Clara Pelf, a masseuse with unorthodox technique. The film is released in November, and Lenya's scene, though brief, is memorable.

November 1977
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

2 December 1977
Undergoes a hysterectomy.

4 April 1978
Receives Distinguished Service Award, at a dinner in her honor at the Rockland Country Club.

6 June 1978
Enters New York Hospital for bladder surgery.

25 October 1978
Celebrates her eightieth birthday by attending a concert of Weill's rarely-heard orchestral music performed by the Greenwich Philharmonia at Avery Fisher Hall. Though she does not perform, Lenya appears on stage in her bathrobe and accepts birthday greetings from the audience. (She broke her wrist in September and wears the bathrobe to conceal the sling.)

12 November 1978
Sings "So What" and "The Pineapple Song" from Cabaret at a concert entitled "Sing Happy: The Work of John Kander and Fred Ebb" at Avery Fisher Hall. This is her last public performance.

December 1978
Tapes an interview with Schuyler Chapin for broadcast on PBS. The interview is divided into two parts (each half an hour)--"Lenya: The Berlin Years" and "Lenya: Paris-New York"--which are broadcast for the first time 30 January and 6 February 1979. Lenya gives a number of interviews for broadcast in the last years of her life; other notable ones are conducted by Peter Adam (broadcast on the BBC in May 1979), Beverly Sills, and Robert Jacobson (both shown on PBS as part of broadcasts of stage performances of Weill operas during the autumn of 1979).

Autumn 1979
Meets Teresa Stratas, who will sing the role of Jenny in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (premiere: 16 November 1979). Lenya is deeply impressed with her and publicly passes to Stratas her mantle as the premiere interpreter of Weill's music. Lenya attended the premiere at the Met, just as she would attend other new productions of Weill's operas in the next year.

18 November 1979
Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame, along with Cheryl Crawford, Alan Jay Lerner, José Quintero, Elmer Rice, and Tennessee Williams.

Lenya's health, which has been gradually growing worse for several years, now enters serious decline. In the last two years of her life, she makes few public appearances, has difficulty maintaining her correspondence, and communicates with only a few friends.

2 March 1980
Accepts a tribute from the state senate of Michigan at Wayne State University in Detroit.

February 1981
At the prompting of Margo Harris Hammerschlag, Lenya enters the hospital for cosmetic breast surgery. A few weeks after being discharged, she falls and breaks two vertebrae. By this time, cancer has spread throughout her body.

2 April 1981
Attends the first meeting of a reconstituted Board of Trustees for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the last board meeting that she attends.

1 July 1981
Deposits most of Weill's manuscripts and papers in her possession at the Yale University Music Library.

September 1981
Lenya's doctor informs her that the end is near; she enters Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital for cancer treatments anyway.

28 October 1981
Leaves the hospital, terminally ill and heavily sedated. She is taken to the apartment of her friend Margo Hammerschlag at 300 W. 74th Street in New York. Shortly afterwards, Teresa Stratas moves in to help keep Lenya's spirits up during her final illness. Hammerschlag prevents many long-standing friends and colleagues from visiting her.

6 November 1981
Signs a deathbed will in which Margo Hammerschlag receives the contents of Brook House and shares with Lenya's sister and Anna Krebs the income generated from a trust.

27 November 1981
Dies at the age of 83.

1 December 1981
Buried next to Kurt Weill in Mount Repose Cemetery.

1960-1969 | 1898-1921