Ironically, it was a smallish place that had only recently expanded to absorb suburbs and outlying villages into a Grossstadt, a metropolis. The inner city, its narrow streets spreading out radially from St. Stephens, was crammed, albeit with Beethoven, Schubert, the playwrights Grillparzer and Nestroy, the waltzing Strausses. It counted a population of only half a million in , when the citys outer defensive walls were pulled downliterally detonated, with high explosives, as they.
The work lasted well into the s, and when it was over the vast open space left encircling the inner city became the boulevards known as the Ringstrasse, giving spectators room to marvel at a crescent of public buildings in neo-style, from Greek through Gothic to Baroque: the Opera, the Parliament, City Hall, the Memorial Church, the University, the Burgtheater, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Stock Exchange.
It seems characteristic of Vienna to be the last great European city to lose its outlying armoras though, unlike revolutionary Paris, businesslike London, and eternal Rome, it viewed its battlements as protection from such modern ideas as democracy, a free press, and liberalization of lifestyle.
But then, Vienna was also the easternmost of continental Europes metropolises. The armies of Islam twice besieged it as they swept through southeastern Europe, in and , both times unsuccessfully, though the second try nearly came off. The invader had breached the walls and was just smashing into the city when a Christian relief force arrived and turned history around. The Turks retreated so precipitously that they left everything behind, including hundreds of bags of coffee beans. These were immediately put to useor so the legend runsin initiating another feature of Viennese life, the coffeehouse.
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Viennas most identifying feature, however, might be its related worlds of music and the stage. The Viennese are born theatregoers opera, the classics, low comedy, and operetta all have their publics, and it is worth noting that, aside from a few nomadic excursions, Karoline Blamauer was to live her entire life exclusively in theatre capitals or their environs, even when she was not actively working as a thespian. After Vienna there was Zurich a modest arts capital, to be sure, but the only Swiss town with something like a theatre community , Berlin, Paris briey , and New York.
One could argue that the future Lotte Lenyas wish to take a big bite out of life naturally led her to cosmopolitan places, with their bohemian subcultures. But it is also true that Vienna nurtured the theatrical personality, addicting it to the amboyant all the worlds a stage living style common to cultural capitals.
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The Blamauers were too poor to take part in theatregoing, but all the city, regardless of class, followed the news of the arts world. Stageand-concert gossip was the next topic after the weather for much of the population, and when Gustav Mahler took over as director of the Opera, the announcement that he was converting from Judaism to thestate religion, Roman Catholicism, did nothing to soothe a controversy that raged citywide throughout his ten-year reign.
Then, too, music was available everywhere, especially from the typically Viennese Schrammel band, after the late-nineteenth-century composer Johann Schrammel, who left his name on a quartet of two violins, clarinet, and guitar. And, indeed, the palace of Schnbrunn was not all that Linnerl could see from the kitchen window. Also in view was a small momand-pop circus in which the parents and their kids did everything from tear the tickets to play the clown.
It was as close to The Theatre as veyear-old Linnerl had ever got, and somehow or other she conveyed her intense interest to the circus manager and won her rst job in show business, dancing in Hungarian folk garb while smashing a tambourine. Years later, as she recounted the tale, friends would ask what she danced to. Brahms, you know? Not that it made any difference as they Schrammeled their way through it. Tiny circuses offer humble attractions, and in due course little Linnerl walked a tightrope a mere four feet above ground, with an exotic paper umbrella for balance.
No crowned heads were scheduling command performances, but to a stage-struck ve-year-old it must have seemed a lovely dream. Frau Blamauer could see how happy it made her, and, said Lenya, My father could not have cared less. This is how it always begins: the so very young and unhappy child learning to substitute the appreciation of an audience for the affection she cannot get at home. Performing becomes ones support system and surely the next stop is a trip to the theatre that impassions selfbelief.
The actors control a wild magic, and the public needs to share the enchantment. Yet when the Blamauers did take Linnerl to a show, she could scarcely follow the event from the inexpensive seats they held, and the trip was a waste. Anyway, Linnerls parents had no fancy plans for her; she was not even to nish school. The work was monotonousbut delivering the nished hats to a middle-class clientele gave Linnerl tiny access to a world she had known nothing of, wherein people had the money with which to pleasure their lives.
Some of her errands took her into the inner city, the old Vienna town of history and fable, the Beethoven-Stadt that, by Linnerls youth in the s, had become the radical place of the playwrights Arthur Schnitzler and Frank Wedekind, of Sigmund Freud, of the dangerous inventor of the music that only other inventors liked, Arnold Schnberg. Vienna was stirring, and Linnerl Blamauer needed to slip out of Penzing and its animal-biscuit circus into the pleasurable life. So she followed the example of other girls in the shop and took to selling herself on the streets. Years later, Lenya enjoyed sharing the secret with virtually anyonewives of producers and playwrights, fellow actors, strangers at parties.
She presented it as another piece of the Lenya Legend, simply what happens to penniless young women who need Extrataschengeld pocket money to keep up with Dorothea and Mausi.
Love Song; The Lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya
And, she would add, no one was forcing us, you know? Lenyas biographer Jens Rosteck even sees Lenya-as-prostitute as another preparation for her career as a performer: She smoothed out her future in those early sexual dealings with men, calculating how to interest them in various waysa skill she would nd very useful in the tough world of the.
And yet, Rosteck adds, it helps explain Lenyas femme fatale side as that of a hobbyist in gender relations: Like an insatiable collector, she was ever starting off on the hunt once again. Kurt Weill had one thing in common with Karoline Blamauer: he, too, grew up with two brothers and a sister. Each was born a year apart. Beyond that, the difference between what Linnerl and Kurt heard in the word family were wide. The Blamauers were Catholic but not technically observant, although Johanna made church visits in times of stress or thanksgiving.
The Weills were Jewish and pious; Kurts father, Albert Weill, was a synagogue cantor, singing the musical sections of the liturgy, and Kurts mother, Emma Ackermann Weill, was the sister of a rabbi. We have already noted a cultured background in the Weill home, and as a cantor Albert naturally exposed his children to music. It was a close family, tooand a young one, for Albert and Emma were married in , when he was thirty and she twenty-ve.
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All four children were born in the following four years. By contrast, the Blamauers had their children over the course of twelve years. Franz and Johanna Blamauer, too, were young at the time of their marriage, both in their late twenties, but there was no music in the home, and Franz, after the death of his beloved rst Linnerl, showed no interest in his other offspring besides that eerie hatred of the second Linnerl. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Showing of 5 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.
Please try again later. Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. A compelling account on Kurt and Lotte and their stormy but creative life together. Weill is perhaps the most underrated composer of the 20th C. He has been called Germany's Gershwin and that is an apt description. Found their story captivating. Author tries hard to describe Weill's music and that is very difficult to do Sad that like Gershwin, he died young with a lot of musical energy still untapped. Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase.
A must read for those interested in World and American musical theatre; well researched and nice insider feel for those profiled. It is not really a bio of either, and it is pretty limited even in describing their life together. It is very disjointed. I found it a big disappointment. Format: Hardcover. In addition to astute musical analysis, Mordden provides a rich historical context for the lives of the seminal composer and his wife, the noted star of stage and screen. Weill, the son of a cantor, was German, and Lotte Lenya, the Catholic daughter of a coachman, was Austrian.
European history shaped not only their lives but also their musical influence on the entire Western world. Kurt Weill was born in , the same year as Louis Armstrong, although to much different circumstances. By the time he was in his early 20s, Weill was beginning to make a name for himself as a leading composer for the Berlin stage, writing works that brought in themes from American Popular Music.
In , Weill was offered a commission that paired him with one of the most important figures in his life: the burgeoning playwright Bertolt Brecht. The two were revolutionary kindred spirits who found each other at the right place at the right time in Berlin, and their political works from the late s, like The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and The Threepenny Opera transformed German theater and opera. Weill and Lenya eventually fled for America in the mid s. By this time, he and Brecht parted ways creatively. Together, they created Knickerbocker Holiday , his first show to premiere on the American stage.
The show, with a book by Moss Hart, brought Weill back into the world of experimental theater. The show was about psychoanalysis, and every song takes place within a dream sequence. To write the lyrics, Weill managed to coax Ira Gershwin out of retirement, who was still in mourning over the death of his brother George.
Its languid melody made it a great vehicle for jazz singers and players, and it quickly became a standard performed by Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Clark, Bill Evans, Sarah Vaughan, and others. To write the lyrics to this show about New York tenement life, he brought in acclaimed Harlem poet Langston Hughes. Weill worked again with Maxwell Anderson, who he worked with a decade earlier on his first show for the Broadway stage.
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