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Kurt Weill

(1900—1950) German composer


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(1900–1950)

German composer, who developed a new genre of satirical opera in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht.

Weill studied at the Berlin High School of Music and worked as an opera coach and conductor before studying with Busoni (1921–24). Turning to composition, he developed a style that was forcefully direct, economical, and harmonically simple and lent itself well to political satire. Although his early operas, including Der Protagonist (1926; The Protagonist), were well received, it was his first collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1927; The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), that established Weill as Germany's most promising young composer. This reputation was consolidated with his next work with Brecht, Die Dreigroschenoper (1928; The Threepenny Opera), based upon John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1728). Brecht was again the librettist for Der Jasager (1930), and Die Sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger (1933).

Persecuted by the Nazis, on account of his artistic activities and because he was a Jew, Weill moved to Paris (1933), then to London, and finally to New York (1935). There he embarked upon a series of successful Broadway musicals, including Johnny Johnson (1935), The Eternal Road (1937), Knickerbocker Holiday (1938), Lady in the Dark (1941), One Touch of Venus (1943), Street Scene (1947), and Lost in the Stars (1949). His wife, the singer Lotte Lenya (1900–81), appeared in many of his works. Weill died at the height of his fame of a heart attack. Other works included two symphonies, a violin concerto, and Lindberg's Flight (1928) and The Seven Deadly Sins (1933), both to libretti by Brecht.

Subjects: Music


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