Personalities | Kurt Weill | Modern Era | Opera

1900–50, German

A precocious compositional talent, Weill’s early operatic works Der Protagonist (‘The Protagonist’, 1926) and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren (‘The Tsar has his Photograph Taken’, 1928) strengthened his resolve to invent a style of music theatre that used the finest playwrights and dancers.

In 1927, he collaborated with writer Bertolt Brecht on Mahagonny Songspiel, and this led to a string of massive successes that included Die Dreigroschenoper (‘The Threepenny Opera’, 1928), Happy End (1929), Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (‘Rise and Fall of the city of Mahagonny’, 1929) and Der Jasager (‘He Who Says Yes’, 1930). Die Dreigroschenoper, a reworking of Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, with its cast of thieves, pimps and prostitutes, perfectly captured the decadence of pre-Second World War Berlin and also brought Weill international fame.

He and Brecht quickly fell out, however, due to Weill’s dominance, and the successful run of Der Silbersee (‘The Silver Lake’, 1933), for which Weill worked in partnership with expressionist playwright Georg Kaiser, was shut down by the Nazis. Weill and Brecht revived their partnership for the song-cycle Der sieben Todsünden (‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, 1933). But then Weill fled to America, where works such as Love Life (1948) and Lost in the Stars (1949) garnered critical acclaim but box-office failure. Weill enjoyed great critical and financial success with One Touch of Venus (1943) and Lady in the Dark (1941) and his American masterpiece, Street Scene (1946). His work enjoys regular revivals in European and American opera houses.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny by Kurt Weill | Modern Era
Major Operas | Die Dreigroschenoper by Kurt Weill | Modern Era
Personalities | Judith Weir | Modern Era | Opera
Techniques | Expressionism | Modern Era | Opera


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