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Marc Blitzstein

Marcus Samuel Blitzstein

Pianist, Writer, Composer, Lyricist

(1905 - 1964)

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Marc Blitzstein was a child prodigy who began performing piano concertos at the age of seven. He studied at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and continued his studies in Europe with Arnold Schoenberg and Nadia Boulanger. His early piano compositions were rhythmic and percussive in a modernist vein. Although his initial artistic views were elitist, he soon came to believe that the arts should reach out to the masses and “...have a social as well as artistic base.”

Novelist and critic Eva Goldbeck, whom he met in 1928, was crucial to the development of his socially conscious outlook which he expressed in left-wing journals of the ‘30s. Although Blitzstein privately admitted his homosexuality, he and Eva married in 1933 and enjoyed a rich relationship until her death in 1936. In his grief, Blitzstein concentrated on work, and in 1937 his controversial political opera The Cradle Will Rock, conceived with Orson Welles and John Houseman, was performed despite the withdrawal of funds by the Federal Theater Project. A 1939 production at Harvard introduced Blitzstein to a brilliant young student, Leonard Bernstein, with whom he would form a lifelong personal and professional association.

After serving in WW II, Blitzstein returned to the stage in 1949 with Regina, a successful version of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. In 1952 he enjoyed commercial success with his translation of The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Produced at Brandeis University under the musical eye of Bernstein, it became one of Off-Broadway’s longest running shows and gave us the jazz standard “Mack the Knife.”

The ‘50s were not kind to Blitzstein. His works were not well-received and he was hounded by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In late 1963 he left for Martinique where he was stabbed, beaten and left for dead by Portuguese sailors. Although Blitzstein’s work has been neglected for decades, he has come to occupy a prestigious place in the history of modern musical theater. The Cradle Will Rock was performed on stage in 1985, and Tim Robbins’ made a 1999 film about the creation of the opera and events surrounding it which renewed interest in Blitzstein’s work.

- Sandra Burlingame


The Cradle Will Rock: Original 1985 Cast Recording

Marc Blitzstein



The Threepenny Opera (1954 New York Cast)

Lotte Lenya, Beatrice Arthur, Charlotte Rae, Marc Blitzstein, Jo Sullivan Loesser, Scott Merrill, John Astin



Mack the Knife: The Complete Ella in Berlin

Paul Smith Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald



Mack the Knife

Louis Armstrong



Mack The Knife - The Best Of Bobby Darin Volume Two

Bobby Darin
Reading and Viewing

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Eric A. Gordon

Mark the Music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein

iUniverse


Regina: Vocal Score

Chappell


Hank Azaria, Rubén Blades

Cradle Will Rock

Buena Vista Home Video

DVD


Rudolf Forster, Carola Neher, Reinhold Schunzel, Fritz Rasp, Valeska Gert, Lotte Lenya, Hermann Thimig, Ernst Busch, Vladimir Sokoloff, Paul Kemp

The Threepenny Opera

Homevision

VHS

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