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1932 - 1950

What Next?

Lenya divorces Weill but resumes living with him after a couple of years. They travel to the U.S. together and settle there. Lenya makes sporadic and largely unsuccessful efforts to build a performing career; she looks after Weill as he makes a name for himself on Broadway. His death is a staggering, and ultimately life-changing, blow.

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Read Text-Only Chronology

1932

  • 11 December

    Plays Jessie in a performance of Mahagonny Songspiel augmented with four numbers from the opera at La Sérénade in Paris

1933

  • Early

    Begins divorce proceedings against Weill in Germany

    Lenya and Weill still care for each other, and the break-up frees Lenya to try to get Weill’s money and assets out of Germany. Years later, Lenya remarked that getting the divorce was easy; all she had to do was say she didn’t want to be married to a Jew any more and the authorities accepted it without hesitation.

  • 5 March

    Drives to Munich with Weill to await the results of parliamentary elections

    The Nazi party wins a plurality of the vote and soon outlaws all other parties. It becomes clear that Weill must leave Germany. Lenya returns to Vienna as Weill goes back to Berlin to make final preparations for his flight.

  • 5 April

    Meets Weill in Nancy, France; he offers her and Pasetti parts in a newly commissioned work, Die sieben Todsünden

  • 7 June

    Plays Anna I in the premiere of Die sieben Todsünden in Paris, part of the summer season of a short-lived troupe, Les Ballets 1933

    The ballet chanté is choreographed by George Balanchine; the production marks the last collaboration of Weill, Lenya, Brecht (libretto) and Caspar Neher (sets and costumes). Pasetti plays one of Anna I’s brothers; for him Weill writes an unusually high and punishing tenor part.

    • Tilly Losch (Anna II) and Lenya (Anna I) in Die sieben Todsünden, Paris, 1933

    • Program for Les Ballets 1933, including the premiere of Die sieben Todsünden

    • Lenya as Anna I, 1933

  • 30 June

    Opens with Les Ballets 1933 in London for a three-week engagement

  • 18 September

    Divorce finalized in Germany

    Lenya sells the Klein Machnow house later that year. She and Pasetti attempt to get Weill’s money and assets out of Germany over the next several months, with limited success.

  • 29 December

    Plays Jessie in a performance of Mahagonny Songspiel augmented with four numbers from the opera at Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome

    Pasetti is also in the cast. He and Lenya go to San Remo after the performance.

1934

  • 16 August

    Plays Pussy Angora in the premiere of a revue, Lieber reich aber glücklich, at the Corso-Theater in Zurich

    Pasetti seems to be out of the picture by now. Lenya probably meets Max Ernst during this time.

  • October

    Lenya moves into Weill’s house in the suburbs of Paris

    She begins an affair with the artist Max Ernst that lasts a few months.

    • Letter from Max Ernst to Lenya, 4 February 1935. It says, "My darling, darling Linerl, I haven't arrived yet, but I'm writing you en route to tell you that I love you so very much. Your Max"

    • Max Ernst sent this postcard to Lenya, featuring himself on the right

1935

  • 8 April

    Travels to London, where she stays with her friend Gerty Simon as Weill readies his operetta A Kingdom for a Cow for production

  • 4 September

    Boards the S.S. Majestic for a voyage to the U.S.

    Weill must go to the New York to help arrange a production of the pageant The Eternal Road, and he asks Lenya to come with him. Both of them assume that they will soon return to Europe. They arrive on 10 September and check into the Hotel St. Moritz.

    • Interview with Lenya

      Lenya describes her arrival in New York in an interview with Schuyler Chapin, 1979

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    • Weill and Lenya arrive in New York Harbor on 10 September 1935 with Francesco and Eleonora von Mendelssohn (far left and second from left), and Meyer Weisgal (far right)

  • 1 December

    Eternal Road director Max Reinhardt announces that Lenya will be part of the cast

  • 17 December

    Performs in an all-Weill concert, which is coolly received, at the League of Composers in New York

    In a review, Marc Blitzstein opines that “Lenya is too special a talent for wide American appeal.”

1936

  • 7 April

    Signs contract to perform in Leonard Sillman’s revue, “New Faces of 1936"

    The contract is later voided by mutual consent.

1937

  • 7 January

    Plays Miriam in the premiere of The Eternal Road at the Manhattan Opera House

    Though the production runs about four months, Lenya’s performance, which includes a song, goes largely unnoticed among the press and public.

    • Lenya as Miriam in The Eternal Road

    • Production playbill

  • 19 January

    Re-marries Weill in a civil ceremony in Westchester County

  • Summer

    Moves with Weill into a duplex apartment in Manhattan, their first permanent home in the U.S.

  • 24 October

    Plays The Suicide in the premiere of Marc Blitzstein’s radio opera, I’ve Got the Tune, broadcast on CBS

1938

  • April - May

    Performs regularly in a Manhattan nightclub, Le Ruban Bleu; Lenya mostly sings songs from Weill’s European works.

1939

  • Christmas

    Receives a gift from Weill: a setting of Brecht’s poem “Nannas Lied

    She never performs it in public.

1941

  • 28 May

    Moves into Brook House (New City, NY) with Weill, the first (and only) house they buy in the U.S.

    Both will live there for the rest of their lives.

  • 22 October

    Plays Cissie, a maid, in the premiere of Candle in the Wind by Maxwell Anderson, directed by Alfred Lunt, at the Shubert Theatre—her Broadway debut

    The run of 95 performances is followed by an extensive tour of the eastern half of the U.S. that continues until the end of May 1942, Lenya’s first travel in the heartland.

    • Lenya played an Austrian maid (Cissie), with Evelyn Varden (Maisie Tompkins) in Candle in the Wind

    • Opening night cast of Candle in the Wind. Seated far left: Helen Hayes; standing, left: Alfred Lunt; standing, right: Maxwell Anderson; seated fifth from left: Lenya.

  • December

    Helps Ernst Josef Aufricht, producer of the world premiere of Die Dreigroschenoper, and his wife Margot escape Europe and come to the U.S.

1943

  • 3 April

    Gives the world premiere of Weill’s setting of Brecht’s poem, “Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?” (What did the soldier's wife receive?)

    The occasion is “We Fight Back!,” a concert intended to encourage exiles in New York to support the war effort.

  • December

    Records six Weill songs for Bost Records in New York - two each in German, French, and English

    • Weill makes new musical arrangements for Lenya's debut recording in the U.S.

    • "Complainte de la Seine"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya, 1943

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    • "Surabaya Johnny"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya, 1943

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1944

  • 5 May

    Becomes American citizen

  • Summer

    Prepares for another Broadway role, the Duchess in Weill’s The Firebrand of Florence, by taking voice lessons with Eva Gauthier

1945

  • 22 March

    Plays the Duchess in the premiere of The Firebrand of Florence at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway

    Music and lyrics by Weill and Ira Gershwin, book by Edwin Justus Mayer. Weill insists that she be cast in a major supporting role over the objections of his collaborators. After the show flops (43 performances) and Lenya is panned, she gives up performing for several years.

    • Lenya (as Duchess) with Earl Wrightson (as Cellini)

    • Entrance of Duchess in Act I

    • Lenya (as Duchess) and Melville Cooper (as Duke)

1947

  • Winter

    Undergoes emergency appendectomy

1948

  • 29 September

    Lenya’s mother and sister arrive from Vienna for a visit; they stay almost two months

    It is the last time Lenya and her mother see each other.

    • Front, from left: Johanna Hainisch (Lenya's mother), Lenya, Maria Hubek (Lenya's sister). Back, from left: Mab Anderson (Maxwell Anderson's wife), Rita Weill (Kurt's sister-in-law).

    • Lenya with her mother in the Brook House kitchen, 1948

1950

  • 3 April

    Weill dies of a heart attack in New York City after a two-week illness

    Lenya is devastated; for weeks, her friends and neighbors are afraid to let her spend the night alone.

  • 6 June

    Writes to magazine editor George Davis to thank him for a lovely evening and to issue a standing invitation for him to visit Brook House

    The two have known each other since the late 1930s, but Lenya’s bereavement and Davis’s difficulty holding a job make them more attractive to each other.

  • 10 July

    Attends a memorial concert for Weill in New York City; Maxwell Anderson delivers a eulogy

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