Love Song: The Lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

. October 2012. 352p. 978-0-31267-657-5. 29.99.
Less a dual biography than an engrossing walk through 1930s opera and musical theater in Germany and the United States, this book by prolific theater historian Mordden (The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication—from the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote’s Ball) uses the lives of Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer (better known as Lotte Lenya) and Kurt Weill, who was from a Jewish family living about 75 miles from Berlin, as a lens on the music and theater scene as a whole. Mordden provides a close examination of the Bertolt Brecht/Weill partnership; detailed commentary on musicals, operas, and theater events; and a discussion of how the tightening Nazi restrictions affected theater artists beginning in the late 1930s.
VERDICT While light on purely personal details (Lenya’s fourth marriage is given only one sentence, and there is little explanation of why Weill tolerated his wife’s many extramarital affairs), the book offers thorough analysis of Weill’s musical style, Lenya’s personal magnetism, and the creative environment in which they lived. Academic readers will appreciate the excellent annotated back matter, which includes a discography, list of sources, and further reading suggestions. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/12].

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