Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on the Musical Theatre in America

By Glenn Loney | Go to book overview

Kurt Weill and Broadway Opera

MARC A. ROTH

In February 1947, the composer of Street Scene wrote a letter to the editors of Life magazine in response to a review which had appeared the previous week.

Thanks very much for the kind words about "Street Scene" ( LIFE, Febr. 24). However, I have a gentle beef about one your phrases. Although I was born in Germany, I do not consider myself a "German composer." The Nazis obviously did not consider me as such either, and I left their country (an arrangement which suited both me and my rulers admirably) in 1933.

I am an American citizen, and during my dozen years in this country have composed exclusively for the American stage, writing the scores for "Johnny Johnson," Knickerbocker Holiday," "Lady in the Dark," "One Touch of Venus," "The Firebrand of Florence" (ouch) and "Street Scene." I would appreciate your straightening out your readers on this matter.

Sincerely,

Kurt Weill

Life printed the letter a few weeks later, but have we in America been "straightened out" on the matter as Weill wished? In the thirty-four years since he wrote the above letter, Weill, if anything, has become in his adopted country a more prestigious "German composer." For the past few years Weill has certainly been the rage, with performances of The Three- penny Opera ( 1928) at the Beaumont Theatre, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny ( 1927) at the Metropolitan Opera House, and a revival of Street Scene ( 1947) at the New York City Opera. What composer or author in recent memory could claim simultaneous residence at Lincoln Center's three theatres? Yet the fact remains that the Broadway Weill still plays a distinct second fiddle to his lionized German relative, partly because few of

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