Marc Blitzstein

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Marc Blitzstein

Marc Blitzstein (March 2, 1905, Philadelphia – January 22, 1964, Fort-de-France, Martinique) was an American composer, pianist and author.

Marc_Blitzstein’s Biography

He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Philadelphia. As a pianist he was a child prodigy who came to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra as a teenager. He studied at the Curtis Music Institute, later with the famous Nadia Boulanger in Paris and later in Berlin with the composer Arnold Schoenberg.

In New York he joined the theater group led by Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, Harold Clurman and Clifford Odets.

Openly gay, he married the novelist Eva Goldbeck (1901-1936), they had no children. Goldbeck introduced him to Bertolt Brecht.

In 1937 he jumped into notoriety for his piece on the tyranny of capitalism The Cradle Will Rock directed by Orson Welles and closed for political reasons by the Works Progress Administration (the history of production taken to the cinema by Tim Robbins in 1999 as Cradle Will Rock with Susan Sarandon as Margherita Sarfatti). The best known song of the work is Nickel Under the Foot In 1939 he met Leonard Bernstein forming an important artistic and personal association for both.

During World War II he served in the United States Air Force, where he was also director of radio broadcasts from London.

He is remembered for the 1949 opera Regina based on The Little Foxes (The Spanish version of the she-wolf) by Lillian Hellman, directed by Maurice Abravanel and starring Jane Pickens Langley at the premiere of the Teatro of 46th Street in New York. In 1953 the New York City Opera produced an expanded version of a more operatic character. The opera was staged in 1958 and only in 1977 in Detroit, in 1980 in Houston and in 1992 in the Opera of Scotland from which comes the only comprehensive record available directed by John Mauceri. In 2001 the Florida Grand Opera mounted a new production followed by the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2003 with Lauren Flanigan. In 1994 and 2008 the director Robert Larsen staged it in the Opera of Des Moines.

Blitzstein adapted the English of Die Dreigroschenoper by Bertolt Brecht in 1952, with the legendary Lotte Lenya on Broadway, reaching 2,611 performances in seven seasons. The American version of the song Mack the Knife belongs to you.

In 1955 premiere in Boston, Reuben Reuben who set Evelyn Lear’s debut, the show, with Kaye Ballard and Eddie Albert, was a failure and never made it to Broadway.

She was also responsible for the adaptations and American versions of Madre Coraje and her children of Brecht-Paul Dessau and Mahagonny of Brecht-Kurt Weill.

In 1958 he was summoned to testify for alleged communist activities by the Anti-American Activities Committee, he had belonged to the American Communist Party between 1935-48.

While working at the Metropolitan for an opera about the case of Sacco and Vanzetti based on his Condemned 1932 piece, Blitzstein vacationed in Martinique. The circumstances of his death were never fully clarified. He was apparently raped, robbed and beaten by three Portuguese sailors with whom he had become drunk. The police found him in an alley asking for help, he was transferred to a hospital where he died of internal bleeding.

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