The composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was born in Dessau as the son of a Jewish Kantor. He is best known in Germany for The Three Penny Opera (1928) and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930) — both to texts by German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956).

When Weill had to flee from the Nazis he went first to Paris and then to London, but soon emigrated to America, where he wrote the music to Knickerbocker Holiday (1938), Lady in the dark (1941) and the musical film Where do we go from here? (1945). He also wrote an American opera, Street Scene, which had its world premiere in New York in 1947 but was not performed in Dessau until 2004.

In 1926 Weill married the actress Lotte Lenya (1898-1981), who played the pirate Jenny in the original production of The Three Penny Opera. They were divorced in 1933, but remarried in America in 1937.

One of the Masters’ Houses in Dessau

While Kurt Weill was growing up in Dessau, his family lived in several houses, none of which are still in existence. But there is an interesting “Kurt-Weill-Centre” in the Master’s House that was originally built for the painter Lyonel Feininger, at Ebertallee 63 in Dessau.

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2023.

See also: The lost generation of opera composers.

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