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Register to the Papers of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

Call Number: MSS 30

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya contain manuscript scores and sketches of Weill's music, including American stage works as Down in the Valley, Lady in the Dark, One Touch of Venus, Street Scene, Lost in the Stars, Love Life, Firebrand of Florence, and Johnny Johnson. Music for stage works written in Germany includes the holograph scores for Happy End and Mahagonny-Songspiel. Photocopies of holograph scores for other works from his German period, including Die Dreigroschenoper and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, have been provided from the archives of Universal Edition, Vienna, which holds the original manuscripts. Other musical scores and sketches in the collection include the Cello Sonata, Symphony No. 1, String Quartet Op. 8, Quodlibet, Sinfonia Sacra, Frauentanz, Concerto for Violin and Wind Instruments, Das Berliner Requiem, Vom Tod im Wald, Symphony No. 2, You and Me, Railroads on Parade, Walt Whitman Songs, Where Do We Go From Here, A Flag Is Born, Weill's arrangement of the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah, and various arrangements of Weill's music for performances by Lenya after his death. Correspondence, programs, clippings, photographs, and personal documents belonging to Weill and Lenya comprise the remainder of the collection. The correspondence spans the entire careers of Weill and Lenya, and includes letters to and from their friends, families, and collaborators such as Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Ogden Nash, S.J. Perelman, and Langston Hughes. Photographs of Weill, Lenya, family, and friends, of musical productions by Weill, and of stage and film appearances by Lenya are included among the papers. The 20,000 clippings in the collection date from their early years in Berlin.


  • 1890-1984, inclusive


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment. Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.Permission to view certain correspondence must first be obtained from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., 7 East 20th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003.

Conditions Governing Use

The Papers of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Papers of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Lenya in 1981.


In 16 series as follows: I. Music by Weill. II. Arrangements for Lenya. III. Music by Others. IV. Correspondence. V. Programs. VI. Photographs. VII. Documents. VIII. Writings by Weill and Lenya. IX. Scripts and Lyrics for Works by Others. X. Interviews. XI. Biographical Items. XII. Financial Items. XIII. Loose Clippings. XIV. Clippings from Anna Krebs's Scrapbooks. XV. Miscellaneous Items. XVI. Kurt Weill Conference Items.


47 Linear Feet (107 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Music, correspondence and other papers, photographs, and additional materials by and about the German-American composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and the German-American actress and singer Lotte Lenya (1898-1981)

Biographical / Historical

Kurt Weill was born in Dessau, Germany on March 2, 1900. His father was a cantor and composer of Jewish sacred music, so Weill received musical training from an early age. He later studied with Humperdinck at the Berlin Musikhochschule for a year, but his most important composition teacher would prove to be Ferruccio Busoni, with whom he studied for several years in Berlin.

In the early phase of his career, Weill supported himself by working as a radio journalist and music teacher. (Maurice Abravanel and Claudio Arrau were numbered among his pupils.) Several of Weill's works were published and performed in this period, but he gained wider acclaim with his opera Der Protagonist (1926), with a libretto by Georg Kaiser. Weill and Kaiser also worked together on Der Zar lässt sich photographieren and Der Silbersee. Weill's most celebrated collaborator, however, was Bertolt Brecht, who wrote the texts for works such as Mahagonny Songspiel, Das Berliner Requiem, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, and Die sieben Todsünden. Their greatest success was Die Dreigroschenoper (1928), which caused an international sensation and made Weill financially secure. Although he specialized in music for the theater, Weill also composed instrumental works in the 1920s and '30s, including symphonies, string quartets, and a violin concerto.

As a left-leaning modernist intellectual of Jewish birth, Weill was an obvious target for Nazi hostility, and he fled to Paris shortly after Hitler's rise to power in 1933. In 1935 he moved to the United States, where he remained for the rest of his life. In America Weill composed numerous works for Broadway, ranging from the popular Knickerbocker Holiday, Lady in the Dark, and One Touch of Venus to the tragic Street Scene; he collaborated with a remarkable series of playwrights and lyricists including Ira Gershwin, Moss Hart, Langston Hughes, S.J. Perelman, and Ogden Nash. He also wrote four film scores. Several songs from Weill's dramatic works became popular hits, most notably "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" (from Die Dreigroschenoper, and known in English as "Mack the Knife") and "September Song" (from Knickerbocker Holiday). Weill died in New York in 1950.

Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, who used the name Lotte Lenya, was born in Vienna in 1898. She began her career as a dancer in the Zurich ballet in 1914. In 1920 she moved to Berlin, where two years later, encouraged by Georg Kaiser, she became involved in the spoken theater. Kaiser also introduced Lenya to Weill, whom she married in 1926. She sang in the 1927 performance of Mahagonny-Songspiel at the Baden-Baden festival, and in 1928 she appeared as Jenny in Die Dreigroschenoper in Berlin, a role that won her international acclaim. Lenya appeared in three more of Weill's works during his lifetime: Die Sieben Todsünden, The Eternal Road, and The Firebrand of Florence. Weill and Lenya divorced in 1933 and remarried in 1937.

After Weill's death, Lenya devoted much of her time and energy to promoting and performing his music. The Threepenny Opera (Marc Blitzstein's English adaptation of Die Dreigroschenoper) was a resounding success on Broadway, and in 1956 Lenya won a Tony Award for her performance. Her activities were not limited to her husband's works, however, and she appeared in a number of other plays and films: Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Brecht on Brecht, the James Bond thriller From Russia with Love, the Broadway production of Cabaret, The Appointment, and Semi-Tough. She died in 1981.

Register to the Papers of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Adrienne NesnowConsultants: Lys Symonette and Kim Kowalke
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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