Skip To Content
1922 - 1932

A Career Is Born

Lenya meets Kurt Weill as she struggles to establish a career as an actor. After they marry, she performs in his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, notably the world premiere of Die Dreigroschenoper. Her success in that production leads to several roles in major Berlin theaters.

Read Text-Only Chronology
Read Text-Only Chronology


  • Autumn

    With Greta Edelmann, tries unsuccessfully to interest Berlin agents in the dance program they have concocted

    Eventually Edelmann takes a job as a choreographer in Elberfeld, Germany. Lenya stays in Berlin, taking odd jobs and selling jewelry she brought with her from Zurich. She fills her time by learning her way around the Berlin theater scene and taking in shows.


  • October

    Auditions for a role in a new musical pantomime, Zaubernacht, composed by Kurt Weill--the first time the two encounter each other

    She gets the part but does not take it on the advice of Richard Révy, who is not accepted as the stage director.


  • September

    Plays Maria in Twelfth Night for a touring troupe directed by Otto Kirchner

    Révy introduces her to a leading German playwright, Georg Kaiser. Kaiser and his wife, Margarethe, soon hire her as an au pair, and she moves to their house just east of Berlin.


  • May - June

    Meets Kurt Weill, who has begun working with Georg Kaiser on a ballet-pantomime

    He remembers her from the Zaubernacht audition, and they soon start a relationship.

    • Attending the three Kaiser children at the beach (left to right: Anselm, Lenya, Sybille, Laurent)

    • Leading German playwright Georg Kaiser


  • May

    Moves in with Weill after Kaiser offers him the use of his apartment in western Berlin (Charlottenburg)


  • 28 January

    Marries Weill in a civil ceremony

    Lenya recalls later that they married to quell local gossip.

    • Lenya recalled: "This is our wedding picture. We were quite poor at the time. Kurt was making money by giving music and theory lessons. He has our dinner here in a paper bag, which was some kind of herring and jelly. And I got some autumn leaves from the park in the back, to decorate the table, and this was our wedding dinner."

    • Marriage certificate

    • Interior of Weill and Lenya's first Berlin apartment

  • Winter

    Plays Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Wallnertheater, directed by Emil Lind


  • 17 July

    Plays Jessie at the world premiere of Mahagonny Songspiel at the German Chamber Music Festival in Baden-Baden

    Marks her first performance in a Weill work and her first collaboration with librettists Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann and set designer Caspar Neher. Even though she does not read music, she holds her own onstage with opera singers.

    • Rehearsal of the finale of Mahagonny Songspiel, where the singers wield placards; onstage, left to right: Karl Giebel, Georg Ripperger, Irene Eden, Gerhard Pechner, Erik Wirl, and Lotte Lenya. Weill and Brügmann are at the left; Brecht is on the right; Lenya's placard reads, "Für Weill!"

    • Program from the Baden-Baden premiere

    • Cast photo during rehearsals; Lenya front left, Brecht behind her, Brügmann to Lenya's left, Weill top left


  • May

    Accompanies Weill and Brecht on a trip to the Riviera, where they work on songs for Die Dreigroschenoper

  • 31 August

    Plays Jenny at the world premiere of Die Dreigroschenoper at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin

    The show is a surprise hit, and so is Lenya, earning praise from leading critic Alfred Kerr even though her name has been left out of the program. (Kerr writes, “She was good, really good.”) Soon she begins getting parts in productions all over Berlin.

    • Lenya, as Jenny, and Hilde Körber, as Polly, in the original production of Die Dreigroschenoper

    • "Seeräuberjenny"

      Recorded by Lenya, 1930

      0:00 / 0:00
    • Lenya, as Jenny, stands center in the brothel scene from Die Dreigroschenoper

  • October

    Moves with Weill to a larger apartment in Charlottenburg

  • 28 November

    Plays Charmian Peruchacha at the premiere of Lion Feuchtwanger’s play Die Petroleum-Inseln (Oil Islands) at the Berlin Staatstheater, directed by Jürgen Fehling


  • 4 January

    Plays Ismene in the premiere of Oedipus auf Kolonos at the Staatstheater, directed by Leopold Jessner

  • 30 March

    Plays Alma in the premiere of Marieluise Fleisser’s play Pioniere in Ingolstadt at the Schiffbauerdamm, directed by Jakob Geis

  • 14 October

    Plays Ilse in the premiere of Frank Wedekind's play Frühlings Erwachen at the Volksbühne, directed by Karlheinz Martin

    • Lenya as Ilse, 1929

    • Program from the production

    • Peter Lorre and Lenya


  • 24 February

    Records two numbers on the Ultraphon label from the opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny by Weill, Brecht, and Hauptmann: “Alabama-Song” and “Denn wie man sich bettet"

    She goes on to record the same numbers for Homocord soon after. The opera premieres on 9 March in Leipzig; Lenya is in the audience despite a growing estrangement from Weill.

  • September - November

    Filming of Die 3Groschenoper, directed by G.W. Pabst

    As she had onstage, Lenya plays Jenny, but this time she sings “Pirate Jenny”—Polly’s number in the dramatic version—beginning a long association with the song.

    • The program for the German version of the film shows the creative team and photos of the principal cast members

    • "Seeräuberjenny"

      Lenya singing in the Pabst film

    • Lotte Lenya as Jenny

  • 7 December

    Recording sessions for “Aus der Dreigroschenoper,” a recording of most numbers from the stage work with some members of the original cast, released on Ultraphon

    Lenya sings several songs that she had not performed in the original production.

    • Side 1 of the album recording

    • "Barbarasong"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya, 1930

      0:00 / 0:00
    • "Eifersuchtsduett"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya, 1930

      0:00 / 0:00


  • 28 July

    At the invitation of Erwin Piscator, Lenya travels to the Soviet Union to make a film based on a novel by Anna Seghers, Der Aufstand der Fischer von Santa Barbara (The Revolt of the Fishermen of Santa Barbara)

    She spends about three months there, mostly in Moscow, but the film is not made.

  • 18 October

    Learns from Weill that he has bought a house for them in Klein Machnow (southwestern Berlin)

    Weill buys the house as a birthday present for Lenya, even though they have been growing apart.

  • 17 November

    Performs world premiere of a song by Weill and Günther Weisenborn, “Das Lied vom blinden Mädchen,” as part of a revue at the Volksbühne in Berlin

  • 21 December

    Plays Jenny at the Berlin premiere of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny

    Theater am Kurfürstendamm, directed by Caspar Neher, conducted by Alexander Zemlinsky. Weill composes a new setting of the “Havana-Lied” in Act I for her. The production runs about two months; during the run, she participates in a recording of excerpts from the opera on Electrola.

    • Lenya (Jenny) and Harald Paulsen (Jimmy)

    • Lenya sings "Alabama Song" with chorus

    • "Alabama Song"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya and chorus, 1932

      0:00 / 0:00


  • 26 April

    Plays Jenny at the premiere of a production of an abridged version of Aufstieg in Vienna

    Her opposite number in the cast is tenor Otto Pasetti. Lenya stays in Vienna with him, effectively ending her marriage to Weill. She and Pasetti remain together and spend time in Austria, Germany, Italy, and Monte Carlo over the next two years, trying to make money by gambling.

Up next

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.