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Kurt Weill

Composer

Biography

German-American composer Kurt Weill (1900–1950) wrote some of the most important works of opera and musical theatre of the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for Die Dreigroschenoper and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, both written with the playwright Bertolt Brecht.

Weill was born in Dessau into a musical family. He studied in Berlin with Engelbert Humperdinck and Ferrucio Busoni. His first opera, Der Protagonist, was performed in Dresden in 1926; this was followed by several more avant-garde works, including Royal Palace (1927) and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren (1928). In 1927 he first collaborated with Brecht on the Songspiel Mahagonny, which met with such success that they extended the piece into the full opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1930). Brecht and Weill also worked together on Die Dreigroschenoper (1928), a contemporary adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera of 1728. Brecht’s striking scenarios and texts and Weill’s richly varied scores ensured that their partnership was one of the most celebrated in operatic history. Though they fell out in 1930, they collaborated on a number of other works, including Der Jasager (1930) and Die sieben Todsünden (1933).

Weill left Germany following the rise of the Third Reich and settled in the USA in 1935, where he worked as a Broadway composer. Lady in the Dark (1940) and One Touch of Venus (1943) were both great successes, although an English-language Threepenny Opera was even more successful on its premiere in 1954, with his widow Lotte Lenya leading the cast as she had in the German premiere in 1928.

Videos

News and features

The most striking art inspired by opera

The most striking art inspired by opera

26 October 2016

From the grand stages to the audiences themselves, opera has long inspired painters, photographers and mixed-media artists.

Some things are better left unsung: Why composers use speech in opera

Some things are better left unsung: Why composers use speech in opera

2 November 2015

Composers have long explored the gamut of vocal expression from a whisper to a scream.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny to be relayed live to cinemas across the world on 1 April 2015

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny to be relayed live to cinemas across the world on 1 April 2015

31 March 2015

John Fulljames’s new production of Brecht and Weill’s satire stars Anne Sofie von Otter, Willard White and Christine Rice.

Photos

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Peter Hoare, Willard W. White, Anne Sofie Von Otter as Leocadia Begbick, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Christine Rice, Kurt Streit and Neal Davies in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Chorus of the Royal Opera House in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production photo of John Fulljames's production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Jack O’Brien, Darren Jeffery as Bank Account Bill and Neal Davies as Alaska Wolf Joe in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses, Anne Sofie Von Otter as Leocadia Begbick and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Weill

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (Creative Commons)

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses, Anne Sofie Von Otter as Leocadia Begbick and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Neal Davies, Darren Jeffery in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Anne Sofie Von Otter,Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny and Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White, Peter Hoare, Anne Sofie Von Otter and Kurt Streit in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Anne Sofie Von Otter, Willard W. White , Peter Hoare, Christine Rice , Kurt Streit, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Darren Jeffery and Robert Clark as the Bar Pianist.

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre and Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Jack O’Brien, Darren Jeffery as Bank Account Bill and Neal Davies as Alaska Wolf Joe in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny