Lenya, Lotte (1898–1981)

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Lenya, Lotte (1898–1981)

Austrian-born actress and singer who originated the role of Jenny in the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht musical, The Threepenny Opera. Name variations: Lotte Lenja. Born Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer on October 18, 1898, in Vienna, Austria; died on November 27, 1981, in New York; daughter of Franz Blamauer and Johanna Blamauer; married Kurt Julian Weill (a composer), on January 28, 1926 (died April 3, 1950); married George Davis (a magazine editor and journalist), on July 7, 1953 (died November 25, 1957); married Russell Detwiler, in 1962 (died 1969); married Richard Siemanowski, in 1971 (divorced 1973); children: none.

Films:

Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera, German, 1931); The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961); From Russia with Love (1963); The Appointment (1969); Semi-Tough (1977).

In the opening-night audience at a much anticipated 1977 revival of the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht musical The Threepenny Opera at New York's Lincoln Center, a thin, elderly woman, her strong features accentuated by a bright red smudge of lipstick on her wide mouth, observed the performance with great concentration. When the curtain fell, she modestly declined to render her opinion of the performance to admirers who gathered eagerly around her; but the next day, she wrote her decidedly unfavorable views down for a friend, the theater critic John Simon. "I know the text fairly well; three quarters of the singers I could not understand," she complained to him. "They all sounded like they had hot potatoes in their mouths." Her familiarity with the text was surely understated, for Lotte Lenya had appeared in the original German production of The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) in 1928, as well as in the 1931 film version and in a 1953 production of the show in New York. On several occasions, she had recorded selections from the score, and she was the executor of Kurt Weill's estate, having been married to him not once, but twice. Lenya had been the chief proponent of Weill's talent after the two of them arrived in New York in the 1930s and had overseen scores of productions of his works after his death 20 years later, all the while pursuing her own career on the musical stage and on film. "She was not only the keeper of her husband's flame," Simon wrote after her death, "she was also … an inextinguishable flame herself." Even more remarkable, Lotte Lenya managed to establish her own reputation while living much of her life in the shadow of far more visible men.

The first of these was her father Franz Blamauer, who was driving a delivery wagon for a florist in turn-of-the-century Vienna when his second daughter, Karoline, was born on October 18, 1898. The first child born to Franz and Johanna Blamauer , a laundress, had also been named Karoline, and had been the delight of her father, who lovingly nicknamed her "Linnerl," the Viennese diminutive for Karoline. Franz took great pride in his daughter's talent for singing and dancing, and was devastated by her death before her third birthday of a childhood illness. His grief was not eased by the birth of a son, named after himself, shortly afterward. By the time the second Karoline arrived, Franz had taken to drinking and beating Johanna, behavior which he came to focus increasingly on this new Karoline, who was nothing at all like his beloved first daughter, physically or temperamentally. "For me," Lenya wrote many years later, "the second Linnerl who looked so different and only reminded him of his dead beloved, he had only a maniacal hatred." Franz almost never turned his anger or his fists against his son or two other children, Maria and Maximillian, born before 1906, but singled out Lotte to drag from her bed in the family's two-room flat when he returned home after a night's drinking. Lenya always remembered her mother as her source of protection and support. It was Johanna who, noticing that Lotte did well in her studies, made sure she was enrolled in classes for gifted children at a school near the family's flat in Vienna's Hitzig district, at which Lotte later claimed she acquired her first appreciation for the arts and music.

The future Lotte Lenya made her first public appearance in what was billed as a circus but was actually little more than a dusty circle surrounded by a few bench seats set up in a field near her home to entertain passersby. This "circus" was run by a couple who had befriended Lenya as she passed to and from school each day. Asked to replace their ailing daughter, Lotte was fitted out with a peasant's costume and tambourine, dancing and singing for an audience which included her father. It was one of the few times Franz expressed pride in his daughter's abilities.

By 1912, when she was 13, Lenya left school and her abusive home environment for a life on the streets, where she joined the ranks of the "sweet young things"—Vienna's euphemism for child prostitutes. In later life, Lenya never tried to hide this period of her childhood and referred to it matter-of-factly as one of the few ways a poor girl could find a warm bed and a meal away from a tortuous home life. Although Lenya was not an especially attractive child, with mousy hair, pale skin, and a wide mouth further marred by an overbite, Johanna was not surprised at her daughter's activities, having commented on her sensuality at an early age by predicting that men would like her. Franz may have also known of his daughter's attractions, for when she left Vienna to live with an aunt in Zurich the next year he predicted she would become a full-time prostitute. Johanna was more practical. "Be smart, Linnerl," she said at the train station, "and don't come back if you can help it."

Oh, yesterday! That is the past already!

—Lotte Lenya

Life was more genteel in Zurich, where Lenya's Aunt Sophie kept house for a prosperous doctor. Even later, when the gentleman objected to having his peace disturbed by a gangly, noisy teenager and Lenya moved in with a friend's family nearby, her life was far more comfortable than in Vienna. It was in Zurich that she took her first formal dance classes, discovering that while ballet might not suit her, other talents lay waiting. "My body, feet, face, entire nature were against … the attitude of formal ballet," Lenya once said. "Instinctively, I seized instead on pantomime, improvisation, free movement, to give a sense of character. And in these I found myself." Her dance teacher came to the same conclusion and found her a walk-on role as a flower girl in a production of Glück's opera Orfeo at Zurich's Stadttheater during Christmas of 1913. By the outbreak of World War I, in August of 1914, Lenya had convinced the theater to give her a permanent contract and the secure income it brought.

Zurich was something of a boomtown during the war, becoming a major transfer point for troops, weapons, and the money to pay for them. "I never saw a really poor Swiss in all my time there," Lenya later said. "Every second house, it seemed, was a bank." Now boasting a job and her own apartment, she enjoyed the high times just like everyone else, becoming a denizen of the city's lively nightclub circuit on the arm of one or another soldier passing through on the way to the front. "The rumors about her loose life were widespread," one of Lenya's friends remembered many years later. "The nice thing about her was that she was always in good spirits, but there was around her an atmosphere of something forbidden and, I should say, very interesting."

More significantly, she managed to find a place in the cast of the Stadttheater's repertory company, the Schauspielhaus, where she was taken under the wing of the second male to have a drastic influence on her life. He was Richard Révy, the theater's producer and director, who introduced her to the theater's classical roles and came up with a more sophisticated name for her, "Lenja" (to become later, in America, "Lenya"), which he said made her sound like a Russian aristocrat. Her middle name, Charlotte, was shortened to Lotte. Also with Révy's guidance, Lenya was frequently seen at Zurich's Café Voltaire, the hub of Europe's avant-garde and the birthplace of Dadaism, where she met such artistic revolutionaries as Saint-Saëns and the poet Max Jacob. Through her acquaintances from the Café Voltaire, Lenya found work as an extra in a string of theatrical productions, among them a walk-on in a 1918 presentation of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, directed by the composer himself. In 1919, with the war at an end, Révy suggested that Lenya might have better luck in Berlin which, despite Germany's defeat, was an even more tempestuous center than Zurich for new forms of creative expression. Fully expecting to finally make a name for herself, Lenya worked up a dance routine with a friend and took it to Berlin in 1921.

With the social and political upheavals of Weimar Germany and Adolf Hitler's nascent National Socialist Party as a backdrop, Lenya spent a year looking for work after her friend gave up the effort and returned to Zurich. She survived by hocking pieces of jewelry that had been given to her by one of her Swiss lovers, allowing her to indulge in the freewheeling atmosphere of Berlin's cabarets and nightclubs, where anything and anyone could be had for a price. It was during these years that she refined the techniques that would mark her later stage presence—the half-talking, half-singing vocal style popular at the time, perfect for a voice which even Lenya admitted was "an octave below laryngitis," and the slinky, sinuous movements that showed her long legs off to best advantage. It was probably during this period, too, in the midst of Weimar Berlin's lively homosexual community, that Lenya began to fully express her bisexuality by taking a number of female partners. "She had tremendous sex appeal," one of her friends from the Berlin days once noted, "which is amazing since she also had none of the usual physical attributes we think of as attractive. But it was her charm, and although she didn't look sexy, she apparently just exuded sex—plain, raw sex."

Her only work during the period was an appearance as the wise-cracking maid Maria in a 1922 production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, her first speaking role and the first time she appeared on a program under the name Lotte Lenja. After two more years without work, Lenya was hired by German playwright George Kaiser, whom she had met in Zurich when Révy staged one of Kaiser's popular expressionist plays. Kaiser, known for his support of struggling young actors, now took Lenya to his country home, Grünheide, outside Berlin, to work as an au pair for his two children. One day Kaiser sent her off in a rowboat across Grünheide's lake to meet a young composer at the train station with whom he was developing an opera. Thus it was that Lenya met Kurt Weill, the man who would shape the rest of her creative life.

Weill, Jewish and the son of a cantor, was two years younger than Lenya but was already making a name for himself as a composer of considerable talent. He had been writing music since childhood and, at 17, had been an accompanist for the opera company in his hometown of Dessau, near Leipzig. By the time he met Lenya in 1924, he had been a conductor for various small orchestras around Germany and was studying music in Berlin while earning a living as a piano teacher and by playing evenings at beer gardens and music halls. The two had actually met two years before, when Lenya had auditioned for a pantomime Weill had written, although she had only heard his voice from the darkness of the pit. Lenya claimed for some years after their second meeting that Weill had proposed to her as she rowed him across the lake to Grünheide, it being a case of love at first sight. Many years later, however, she admitted it was nothing of the sort and, when pressed, would say that while her respect and devotion for Weill were deep and abiding, she had been incapable of loving any of her men, Weill included. "If you talk about love," she said, "that takes a little time." Nonetheless, Lenya visited Weill frequently in Berlin, spending weekends with him attending concerts or the theater. Through him, she met such musical luminaries as Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Serge Koussevitzky, and Maurice Ravel, and attended the premieres of three of Weill's works performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Erich Furtwängler. Their affair, at least as measured by their correspondence at the time, became increasingly passionate. "You need a human being who belongs to you," Weill wrote to her in 1925. "This someone has to be me! How will you answer?" The answer was yes. The two were married in a civil ceremony in Berlin on January 28, 1926.

The marriage came at a propitious time, for shortly afterward Weill met Bertolt Brecht, that bombastic, pugnacious exponent of theater as a vehicle for political and social criticism. Weill had been impressed by Brecht's radio play, Man on Man, while Brecht had heard several of Weill's compositions and thought of the young composer as a librettist for a work he had been commissioned to write for the 1927 summer festival at Baden-Baden. This first collaboration was Mahagonny Songspiel, based on five of Brecht's poems about a utopian society run amok. The "little Mahagonny," as it is sometimes called, would be the predecessor of Weill's and Brecht's full-length opera, Aufsteig und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), to be presented in Berlin three years after the Songspiel. Weill arranged for Lenya to audition for Brecht as work on the Songspiel progressed, and Brecht was sufficiently impressed to give her the role of Jessie, one of two blowsy women who accompany the work's two heroes to establish the new utopia. Although reviews from Baden-Baden were mixed, those for Lenya were distinctly positive, especially for her commanding stage presence during Jessie's "The Alabama Song." (Brecht and Weill borrowed freely from American musical forms and legend, although the settings of their productions were geographically vague.)

Finding their work together congenial, Weill and Brecht collaborated next on the work for which they are chiefly known, Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), a name chosen because of the show's small budget. Based on John Gay's 18th-century social satire, The Beggar's Opera, Weill and Brecht told their tale of Victorian gangland warfare through a mixture of song, spoken dialogue, and musical interludes. Lenya was cast as the prostitute Jenny, who guides the enraged J.J. Peachum to the brothel where his daughter has been hidden by her lover, MacHeath—nicknamed in the show "Mackie Messer" and "Mack the Knife." The production was directed by Brecht himself. The opening-night audience was at first uncertain of the work's unusual structure, but by the end of the evening, a standing ovation rang through the theater and reviewers especially mentioned Lenya for her mesmerizing presence. The show became such a hit that it was soon being mounted all over Germany and was made into a film by G.W. Pabst, giving Lenya even wider exposure. Brecht was impressed enough with her stage talents that he recommended her for a production of the Oedipus cycle which he produced and saw that she was cast in a play written by his then-lover Marieluise Fleisser . "Lotte Lenja appeared fresh, clear and highly dramatic," wrote one critic of her work in The Pioneers of Ingolstadt, "and she acted with magnificent vitality." Another noted that "a whole world is visible in the way she moves."

The premier of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Leipzig on March 9, 1930, literally brought the house down, in a flurry of fistfights and shouting. Hitler's National Socialists were suspicious of the opera, interpreting its message of false hope in a promised utopia as a direct slap at their own party platform of a bright future for a purely "Aryan" Germany. The Nazis made sure they were well-represented that opening night, and Lenya recalled years later the mounting tension, "something strange and ugly," that spread throughout the house as the show progressed. The fighting had spread onto the stage by the time the police arrived to clear the theater. The Nazis disrupted performances of the work all over Germany in similar fashion. Hitler's election as chancellor in January of 1933 and the resulting Nazi control of the Reichstag meant that government reprisals against the Jewish Weill and the Marxist Brecht would assume more menacing forms than fistfights. Both men fled to Paris in March of that year.

Lenya often entertained friends years later with exciting tales of midnight border crossings and fake identity papers, but the truth was that, at the time Weill decamped to Paris with his current mistress Erika Neher , she was in the south of France enjoying a passionate holiday with another of her own lovers, an Italian opera tenor. ("But I don't cheat on Kurt," she once insisted. "He knows exactly what's going on.") The two were reunited in Paris while Lenya appeared in a ballet for which Weill and Brecht had composed the scenario, The Seven Deadly Sins, choreographed by George Balanchine. Lenya had conveniently stopped in Berlin on her way to Paris to close out Weill's bank accounts and bring a few of his personal possessions. The ballet was not well received, although the American composer Virgil Thomson thought that Lenya was "beautiful in a new way, a way that nobody has vulgarized so far." After the ballet's rapid demise, Lenya and Weill divorced. Weill remained in Paris while Lenya returned to her opera tenor, with whom she spent much time gambling in Monte Carlo. But their letter-writing never stopped, Lenya at one point inquiring, "Could you find me a nice American who would marry me right away for an American passport?" In 1935, deciding that she could not live apart from Weill, Lenya rejoined him in Paris and later sailed with him for New York, where Weill had a commitment for a production of his epic The Eternal Road, drawn from stories of the Old Testament.

Weill arrived in New York amid great fanfare, while Lenya, known only to a few American artists who had visited in Europe, was forced to spend much of her time in his considerable shadow. Settled in style at the St. Moritz, overlooking Central Park, Lenya worked on improving her imperfect English. She also became an American citizen, thanks to a forgiving judge who chose to ignore her notion that Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States. "I'm lucky he asked me that one," Lenya said later with complete seriousness. "If he'd asked me anything else about the Presidents, I'd have answered wrong."

It was because of Weill that she was given her first New York appearance at Town Hall, in An American Evening in Honor of Kurt Weill, for which she was billed as "Madame Lotte Lenja, Chanteuse"; and it was through Weill that she became friends with the Gershwins, Moss Hart, Maxwell Anderson, and other geniuses of the American stage. Her first American dramatic role was in the Broadway production of Weill's Eternal Road, a massive, four-hour epic with a three-story set and a huge cast which premiered in 1936. She played Miriam the Prophet , Moses' sister, but was lost in the panoply and received only one passing mention in the trade press for her efforts.

Meanwhile, Lenya and Weill had decided to rejuvenate their marriage, which by now both accepted in the nature of a deep friendship. Lenya owed much of her artistic life to him, just as Weill considered her his muse. "My melodies always come to my inner ear in Lenya's voice," he once said. They were married for the second time early in 1937 in a civil ceremony in Westchester County, moving into a duplex apartment on East 62nd Street which they purchased with proceeds from Weill's work on the scores of several Hollywood films. But as Weill's first American collaboration, with Maxwell Anderson, produced the musical Knickerbocker Holiday in 1938 (featuring Weill's memorable "September Song"), Lenya was still looking for work. With features some described as "equine," and her heavily accented, husky voice, she was not easy to cast. It wasn't until 1940 that Lenya finally landed a singing engagement at Le Ruban Bleu, a New York nightclub that specialized in European talent, where she inevitably sang a selection of Weill's songs and introduced a new one he had written for the occasion, "The Right Guy for Me." The appearance marked the beginning of her career in America as an artist in her own right, audiences being particularly impressed with the stage presence and smoky sensuality that had served her so well in Europe.

With the proceeds from the sale of the film rights to Lady in the Dark, the 1941 musical Weill had written with Moss Hart, the couple bought a country home in Westchester's New City, which they called Brook House. Here, Lenya indulged in a hitherto unexpressed domesticity, shopping for antiques and decorating the place in genteel country fashion. The year 1942 brought her first important notice from American drama critics, for her work in Maxwell Anderson's Candle in the Dark, the story of an American actress (played by Helen Hayes ) who rescues her French lover from the concentration camps. Lenya's role was a small one, as a refugee who works as Hayes' maid, but she managed to use it to great effect. More than one reviewer noted that she nearly stole the show from Hayes. "To come upon such an actress is an unexpected bonus," enthused one critic. While Lenya toured with the show during 1942, Weill wrote a part especially for her in his Much Ado about Love, a story set in Renaissance Florence based on the life of Benuto Cellini. The show, unfortunately, was in trouble as soon as it opened in tryouts, Lenya's performance as a duchess being especially criticized. Even George S. Kaufman, called in for emergency surgery, was unable to rescue the musical, renamed Firebrand of Florence when it opened on Broadway in 1944, only to close after a few weeks.

After working at a feverish pitch ever since their arrival in America, and ignoring his doctor's warnings about high blood pressure, Weill collapsed from a heart attack early in 1950 and never fully recovered. Lenya was at his bedside when he died on April 3. She had never imagined life without the quiet, dignified man she may not have loved, but to whom she had given the tenderness and respect due a best friend. "As he died, I looked at him and asked myself, did I ever really know him?" she said. For three years after his death, she virtually disappeared from the stage. Those who saw her during the period were struck by the change in her usual good spirits. "It wasn't merely her appearance," noted George Davis, a magazine editor and journalist whom Lenya had met nearly 20 years before. "Her face was veiled by apathy. Here was a person who had lost interest in everything. She had abdicated from life."

It was Davis who, a year later, convinced Lenya to come out of seclusion to appear in a recital version of The Threepenny Opera at Town Hall; it was Davis who helped her with the mass of legal issues facing her as the executor of Weill's estate and archives, and who prevailed on her to begin recording her memoirs of her years with the composer; and it was Davis whom Lenya married in New York on July 7, 1953. "George married me out of friendship," she later said, "so I wouldn't be alone. It was a gesture of kindness because I was so lost." Shortly afterward, with great trepidation, she agreed to appear in a fully staged version of The Threepenny Opera at the Theater de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel Theater) on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Fearing that no one would travel so far downtown, still stung by the negative reviews she had received for Firebrand of Florence, and terrified at the responsibility of appearing in the first full production of Weill's and Brecht's work in America, Lenya paced nervously up and down an alleyway outside the theater as the seats inside began to fill on opening night, March 10, 1954—26 years after she had played Jenny in the original German production. She needn't have worried, for the audience response and the reviews the next morning were full of praise for the production in general and her work in particular. "Lotte Lenya helps to tell the story without making a personal incident out of her presence in it," wrote Brooks Atkinson inThe New York Times, in admiration of her seamless work with the rest of the cast to give Weill's score—particularly "Mack the Knife" and her rendition of "Pirate Jenny"—a new audience. The production ran for a record 2,700 performances, grossing more than $3 million for its investors.

In the midst of professional success, however, Lenya's marriage was in trouble. Although she had been fully aware and accepting of George Davis' homosexuality, Lenya had not been prepared for his predilection for young men who often beat and robbed him; and Davis' alcoholism, of which she had also been aware, worsened to the point where he could no longer write or work. While on a trip to Germany in 1957 to record the score of Threepenny (on a previous trip in 1955, Lenya had been reunited with Brecht for the first time in nearly 20 years), Davis was hospitalized and died of alcohol-related illness.

Lenya spent the next three years recording more of Weill's music for American and European labels, performed in a New York City Ballet revival of The Seven Deadly Sins, and appeared in her first film in nearly 30 years, 1961's The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, based on the Tennessee Williams story. She portrayed the manipulative Contessa, the madam of a ring of male prostitutes who preys on the loneliness of the newly widowed Mrs. Stone, played by Vivien Leigh (Leigh's last film appearance). "I loved doing it," Lenya told the press after shooting was completed. "So wicked and stark and old, this Contessa. But she was not all that vicious. She split fifty/fifty with her callboys. That's not bad for an agent." Her work in the picture won her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress (which went to Rita Moreno for West Side Story).

Lenya's newfound movie fame no doubt brought the crowds back to the Theater de Lys later in 1961, where she opened in Brecht on Brecht, reading selections from Brecht's poetry and dramatic writings, as well as singing several of her favorite songs from Threepenny. In the audience one night was a young artist named Russell Detwiler, in whose company Lenya was seen for much of 1962, culminating in her announcement that they had been married in November of that year. She was 63 at the time; Detwiler was 37. Detwiler, like Davis before him, was gay and an alcoholic, although the results of his drinking were even more disastrous than Davis'. He often went on angry rampages, smashing the artwork Lenya had begun collecting under Davis' guidance and attacking a new car Lenya had given him with a baseball bat. "I've married a child," she tried to explain to her friends, "and the result I've brought on myself." Her career, however, flourished.

She gave a small but memorable performance as the murderous Rosa Klebb in the 1963 James Bond film, From Russia With Love, in which she famously attacked Sean Connery with sensible shoes that sprouted lethal daggers. She confessed she was never happier than when she was engaged in work that had nothing to do with Weill, for presenting his work made her, she said, "as nervous as a cat. I feel a crushing responsibility." In 1965, she returned to the European stage for a production of Brecht's anti-militarist Mother Courage. The following year, she secured her reputation with her performance as Frau Schnieder in John Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret, drawn from the Berlin stories of Christopher Isherwood. Joe Masteroff's book was centered around a nightclub in Weimar Berlin, not unlike the ones Lenya had herself frequented, and told the story, among others, of the landlady Schnieder's love for the Jewish grocer in her neighborhood as the Nazi war machine is beginning its ominous rumbling—events Lenya had also personally witnessed 30 years before. "The Pineapple Song," her duet with Jack Guilford's grocer, was especially memorable. "She has a voice that could sandpaper sandpaper," Harold Schonberg wrote in the Times, "and half the time she doesn't even attempt to sing, but she can put into a song an intensity that becomes almost terrifying." Cabaret, along with her appearance in the Bond film, rescued Lenya from the obscurity of a wartime legend and brought her a new, younger audience that had not even been born when she first stepped on stage in Zurich.

Throughout her newfound success, Lenya dealt as best she could with Russell Detwiler's excesses. In October of 1969, Detwiler fractured his skull and died after what had apparently been a fall caused by a narcotic seizure. Lenya claimed that despite Detwiler's behavior, she had loved him the most of all her three husbands because, she said, he was the one who needed her most.

Two years later, Lenya married her fourth, and last, husband, a documentary filmmaker named Richard Siemanowski, whom she had met when he approached her about making a film of her life with Weill. They were married in June of 1971 and, after hardly seeing each other as Lenya toured and recorded in Europe, divorced in 1973. The film was never made. Shortly after the divorce, Lenya began complaining of stomach pains but continued to accept offers of work—notably as the aggressive masseuse, Clara Pelf, in 1977's Semi-Tough. Later that same year, she was admitted to a New York hospital for what was said to have been a hysterectomy, but was actually an operation that revealed cancer of the bladder. The treatment was long and painful, forcing Lenya to forego public appearances, although she continued to scrutinize plans and casting for productions of Weill's and Brecht's work. (Around 1960, she had engaged in a fierce legal battle with Brecht's widow Helen Weigel over royalties.) But the progress of the disease, which soon spread throughout her body, halted even those activities. On November 27, 1981, Lotte Lenya died at the age of 83.

Although Lenya's career had to wait until her sixth decade to blossom, it never occurred to her to complain. In one of her last interviews, two years before her death, Lenya's wry humor was still very much in evidence. "I'm not so remarkable, really," she said. "I never cared about age." Then, after a thoughtful puff from one of her ubiquitous cigarettes, she added, "I think it's better to live to eighty-one than to die beautifully at twenty-five, don't you think?"

sources:

Simon, John. "Lotte Lenya," in The New Leader. Vol. 72, no. 9. May 15, 1989.

Spoto, Donald. Lenya: A Life. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1989.

Symonette, Lys, and Kim H. Kowalke. Speak Low (When You Speak Love): The Love Letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1996.

Norman Powers , writer-producer, Chelsea Lane Productions, New York

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Lenya, Lotte (1898–1981)

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