Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenyaby Kurt Weill, Lys Symonette (Translator), Kim H. Kowalke (Editor), Lotte Lenya
They were an unlikely couple. Kurt Weill was a German cantor's son, cerebral, well-educated. Lotte Lenya was two years older, an Austrian Catholic coachman's daughter, waif-like, less than beautiful but always appealing to men. She survived the abuse of an alcoholic father, escaping to Zurich and finally Berlin, working as a would-be dancer turned actress. When they met, she was a domestic worker in the home of the playwright he had come to recruit as a librettist. Much to his family's dismay, they married in 1926. Fiercely indepent and yet codepent, Weill and Lenya spent twenty-five years discovering a way to live together after realizing that they couldn't live apart. Weill gave music to her voice, Lenya gave voice to his music. Their correspondence‹first in German and later, after their move to America, in highly flavored English‹is uninhibited, intimate, and irreverent. It offers a backstage view of German music and theater, the American musical theater in the late thirties and forties, and Hollywood. The letters are candid, vivid commentaries on world events, the creative process, and the experience of exile. Never before published, this collection reflects the vibrancy of Weimar culture in the Golden Twenties and the vitality that èmigrès brought to American culture. Lenya's unfinished autobiographical account of her life before Weill is also included, along with a prologue, epilogue, and connective commentary. Immensely touching as well as informative, Weill and Lenya's letters preserve a portrait of a memorable love that somehow survived its turbulent surroundings.
Author Biography: Lys Symonette began her collaboration with Weill and Lenya in 1945 asWeill's musical assistant on Broadway. After Weill's death, she was Lenya's accompanist and musical adviser and now serves as Musical Executive of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music in New York. Kim H. Kowalke is Professor of Musicology at the University of Rochester and President of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. He has edited two collections of essays about Weill and authored numerous essays on twentieth-century music and theater.
Composer/songwriter Kurt Weill (190050) and singer/actress Lotte Lenya (18981981) were an ill-matched pair: he from a Jewish family, a serious composer, devoted to his wife; she a Catholic girl who fell into a career as an actress/singer and had many affairs throughout their marriage. This volume begins with a fragmentary autobiography that Lenya wrote about her years before meeting Weill. Then, the book proceeds chronologically through all the extant letters, beginning in 1924 and ending in 1948, two years before the composer's death. Weill was a wonderful diarist, recording his impressions of the many famous folk who crossed his path, first in Germany, then in Paris and London, and finally in Hollywood and New York, including Bertolt Brecht (who was Weill's collaborator on The Threepenny Opera), Maxwell Anderson, Ira and George Gershwin, Cheryl Crawford, and Fritz Lang. Lenya tended to be more off-the-cuff in her letter writing. Weill's innate egotism can get out of hand at times, as when he noted the "bumpkin" George Gershwin's reaction to his presence in Hollywood: "Gershwin seems to be shitting in his pants because of me." He loathed the Hollywood scene: "This is the most bourgeois hick town I've ever seen; everyone's gossipy, narrow- minded, jealous." Despite the ups and downs in their marriage, the couple's affection for each other comes through loud and clear in this chronicle. Lacunae in the letters are well filled in thorough notes by the editors, Symonette, musical executive of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, and Kowalke, president of the foundation.
Recommended for the student of musical-theater history; less vital for the general reader.
- University of California Press
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Lys Symonette began her collaboration with Weill and Lenya in 1945 as Weill's musical assistant on Broadway. After Weill's death, she was Lenya's accompanist and musical adviser and now serves as Musical Executive of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music in New York. Kim H. Kowalke is Professor of Musicology at the University of Rochester and President of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. He has edited two collections of essays about Weill and authored numerous essays on twentieth-century music and theater.
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