Blitzstein, Marc

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Blitzstein, Marc

Marc Blitzstein (Marcus Samuel Blitzstein), 1905–64, American composer, pianist, and librettist, b. Philadelphia. After attending the Univ. of Pennsylvania and the Curtis Institute of Music, he studied in Europe with Nadia Boulanger and Arnold Schoenberg. In the 1920s he completed several piano works and debuted with the Philadelphia Orchestra. His one-act opera Triple Sec (1928) was performed on Broadway as part of the 1930 Garrick Gaieties. In the 1930s, Blitzstein became identified with left-wing musical theater; his best-known work, the musical The Cradle Will Rock (1937), a pro-union political satire for which he wrote the music, lyrics, and book, dates from this period. Commissioned by the WPA's Federal Theatre project, federal support was withdrawn before opening night, ostensibly for budget reasons, but it opened without set or costumes at another venue with Blitzstein onstage at the piano and actors singing from the seats. Other works include The Airborne Symphony (1946); Regina (1949), an opera on Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes; an English adaptation of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera (1954); and the Broadway musical Juno (1959), based on Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock. Blitzstein was working on the opera Sacco and Vanzetti at his death; it was completed (2001) by the composer Leonard Lehrman.

See biographies by E. Gordon (1989) and H. Pollack (2012); biographical bibliography by L. Lehrman (2005).

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