Kurt Weill: success on two continents

Weill's most famous work is The Threepenny Opera, which he wrote in 1928 – whilst only trying to compose 'falsely' in an artificial manner. By 1932 it had been performed in 18 languages.

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was born in Dessau, where his father had been the synagogue cantor since 1898. Every year the composer is celebrated in the town of his birth with a festival lasting several days. Dessau is also home to a Weill statue and a Kurt Weill centre in the Feininger House.

At the age of 19, Weill took up his first post as kapellmeister in Lüdenscheid, where today his presence is honoured by a memorial plaque. In the 1920s he enjoyed success in Berlin as the renewer of opera. Contemporary writers such as Georg Kaiser, Yvan Goll and Bertolt Brecht supplied him with libretti, but as a member of the avant-garde and a left-wing Jew, Weill was everything the Nazis despised. He left Germany in 1933 and never returned.

Amazingly Weill was a success on Broadway too in New York. He was the same trailblazer he had been in Germany but adopted a very American style. Many songs from both phases of his life became hits in America.

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