Author Ethan Mordden discusses the lives and the romance of two theatre legends – actress/singer Lotte Lenya and composer Kurt Weill, the subjects of his new book, Love Song – on the latest edition of THEATER TALK, premiering at 1 a.m. on Friday, October 26 (2012; early Saturday morning) on Thirteen/PBS, followed in New York City on CUNY TV* Saturday at 8:30 PM, Sunday at 12:30 PM, and Monday at 7:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and 7:30 PM. The series is co-hosted by Michael Riedel of the New York Post and producer Susan Haskins. After broadcast, the interview can be viewed online HERE.
The German-born Weill (1900-1950) collaborated with Bertolt Brecht in the late 1920s and early 30s on shows including the revolutionary Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), Happy End, and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (the opening of which was disrupted by Nazi agitators). He and Lenya (1898-1981) – who married in 1926, divorced in 1933, and remarried in 1937 – then emigrated to the U.S. to escape the Third Reich. Here, Weill found great acclaim as composer of Johnny Johnson, Knickerbocker Holiday, Lady in the Dark, Street Scene and Lost in the Stars, among other classic musical pieces. He died in 1950 of a heart attack. The widowed Lenya went on to become well known on the American stage as "Jenny" in the long-running off-Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera, the role she originated in the show's first German production in 1928. The New York production opened in 1954 and continued until 1961. During this period Lenya was acclaimed as the definitive interpreter of the Brecht/Weill canon. Afterwards, she achieved even wider fame as the frightening Rosa Klebb in the James Bond thriller From Russia With Love (1963) and as Fraulein Schneider in the Broadway production of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (1966).
THEATER TALK is the weekly series dedicated to the world of the stage. The program is jointly produced by the not-for-profits Theater Talk Productions and CUNY TV. It is taped in the Himan Brown TV and Radio Studios at The City University of New York (CUNY) TV in Manhattan, and is distributed to 60+ participating public television stations nationwide.
THEATER TALK is made possible in part by The New York State Council on the Arts, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The TDF/TAP Plus Program, The CUNY TV Foundation and The Friends of THEATER TALK. *CUNY TV, the City University of New York television station, is carried in New York City's five boroughs – on Channel 75 on Time Warner and Cablevision, Channel 77 on RCN, and Channel 30 on Verizon FiOS.
Pictured: Lotte Lenya (photo: Carl Van Vechten); cover of Ethan Mordden's "Love Song"; Kurt Weill.