sign up button

Share:

Lotte Lenya Centenary celebrated in the Fall of 1998

Archival Recording Offered to Radio Producers

Sunday, 18 October marks the centenary of the birth of Lotte Lenya (1898-1981), famed Austrian-American singing actress and widow of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950). Between August and October of this year, the life of Lenya, an outstanding musical, theatrical, and film artist in her own right, will be celebrated in the following series of events and publications:

  • a video series at the Museum of Television and Radio, New York
  • a film series at the National Film Theatre, London
  • television rebroadcast of a documentary on her life by Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt
  • a centennial recording collection
  • book publications in Germany, England, and America.

Lenya's voice will forever be associated with Kurt Weill's music, especially The Threepenny Opera and The Seven Deadly Sins. Her recordings of Weill and Brecht have stood the test of time. But thousands also remember her performances on film, notably as James Bond's archenemy Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, and in the theater as Fräulein Schneider in the original Broadway production of Cabaret.

Weill Lenya TV retrospective

Beginning 18 September, New York's Museum of Television and Radio will salute the life and works of Kurt Weill in a series entitled "Threepennies and a Touch of Venus: The World of Kurt Weill." Drawing material from archives in the U.S. and Europe, the screenings will explore the rich legacy of Weill's musical output as well as recognize the centenaries of Lenya and Brecht (1898-1956). The series falls into two sections: "Berlin to Broadway" highlights several made-for-television adaptations of Weill's musicals and "Weill+Lenya+Brecht" features packages of rare clips, interviews, profiles, and performances. A total of 39 screenings will take place over ten weeks, Thursdays through Sundays.

London's National Film Theatre "Friday Favourite" Series Honors Lenya
Every month the National Film Theatre celebrates the work of an actor who has made a significant contribution to the cinema with a screening of their key films each Friday. Recent Friday Favourites have included Grace Kelly, W.C. Fields and Kevin Spacey. In October the National Film Theatre will celebrate Lenya's centenary with screenings of The Threepenny Opera, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, and From Russia with Love (other titles tba).

Hessischer Rundfunk rebroadcasts Lenya documentary on 18 October

At noon on 18 October, "Lenya, ein erfundenes Leben" will be rebroadcast on German television on HR3, to honor Lenya's centenary. Directed by Barrie Gavin, narrated by HK Gruber and produced by Hessischer Rundfunk and Arte Musica in 1994, this affectionate hour-long portrait includes contemporaneous documentation as well as footage of Lenya "in action" singing, speaking, and also reciting German and English poetry.

Bear Family Records issues Lenya centennial collection

Bear Family Records of Hambergen, Germany, honors Lenya with an elaborate edition containing eleven CDs and a generously illustrated book. Included are Lenya's complete commercial recordings from her first Orchestrola 78s dating from 1929 to a 45-rpm recording issued by Metromedia in 1970. The collection also contains previously unreleased material from Lenya's legacy: selections from her radio and television appearances, the first half of her legendary 1965 Carnegie Hall concert, and a deeply moving recitation of Brecht's famous poem "Kinderkreuzzug." The accompanying book offers a richly documented chronicle of Lenya's life, including essays or reminiscences by such friends as Harold Prince and Teresa Stratas, two comprehensive biographical essays and the first complete Lenya discography. The booklet will contain over 200 photos and documents, many newly discovered and published for the first time.

Lenya, the Legend: A Pictorial Autobiography

Lenya the Legend will be launched on 10 October by The Overlook Press in the U.S. and by Thames Hudson in the U.K. More than 300 photographs are accompanied by a narrative comprising Lenya's own words taken from her interviews, letters, and other writings. Lenya's voice brings these captivating glimpses into her world on stage and off to life in the witty, caustic, and insightful manner that is hers alone.

Compiled and edited by David Farneth, Director of the Weill-Lenya Research Center, the book spans Lenya's six-decade career, covering her stage and movie roles, recording sessions, concert appearances, and awards. Also included are publicity photos, photos of informal gatherings with friends, documents related to Lenya's life and career, and a complete chronology. This is an intimate and revealing portrait a tribute her fans and theater buffs won't want to miss.

Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

The German edition of the Weill-Lenya letters, originally published in English by the University of California Press in English in 1996, will be published by Kiepenheuer Witsch Verlag, Cologne, in September this year. Critically acclaimed as "possibly the best-edited correspondence" (New York Times), "virtually a self-contained dual biography" (Civilization), and winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, Speak Low was selected among the best books of the year by the Financial Times and New York Times.

Co-edited by Lys Symonette and Kim Kowalke, Speak Low is a chronicle of the lives and loves of Weill and Lenya between 1924 and 1950. The letters first in German and then in highly flavored English are uninhibited, intimate, and irreverent. Occasionally Weill would jot down a melody with a risqué lyric. Lenya would sketch a charmingly vulgar or erotic drawing. They gossiped, complained about colleagues and collaborators, railed at rivals, plotted career moves, and griped about failed projects. The letters are also filled with artistic news, reactions to world events, reports on work-in-progress, and reflections on the creative process. They provide a nonchalant cultural history and a backstage view of music and theater on both sides of the Atlantic.

Special Archival Recording for Radio Producers

The Kurt Weill Foundation invites radio producers to celebrate Lenya's centenary in the month of October. To that end, we are distributing a special recording from our archival holdings to radio stations worldwide. It features Lenya's speaking and singing voice excerpted from interviews and historical recordings, which can be used in combination with existing Lenya CDs for a truly "special" celebration of the legendary star. The Foundation will also publish a broadcast schedule of all Lenya radio and television programs on the worldwide web. We ask radio producers to forward program details for this schedule.

For the special recording, publicity photos of Lotte Lenya, and further information on any of the above events, please contact

Joanna Lee at the
Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc.
7 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003.
Phone: (212) 505 5240; Fax: (212) 353 9663.