"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Lotte Lenya

This c. 1954 portrait of Lotte Lenya (1898-1981), nee by Saul Bolasni hangs in the Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. "Lotte Lenya" was the stage name of Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer, born in Vienna in 1898.
Lotte Lenya rose to stardom in the vibrant theatrical milieu of Weimar-era Berlin. Her breakout performance was in 1928 when she played the part of the prostitute Jenny in The Threepenny Opera. Deemed a "play with music" it was. co-created by Bertolt Brecht and Lenya's husband, composer Kurt Weill. Conveying raw vulnerability beneath a veneer of street-smart toughness, Lenya beguiled audiences and influenced other performers, including Marlene Dietrich. After fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933, Lenya settled in New York City and became an American citizen in 1944. During the 1950s, her valiant efforts to preserve and promote Weill's musical legacy jumpstarted her ,stalled career.

This portrait commemorates her Tony Award­winning performance as Jenny in the 1954 off Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera. Lenya later received a Tony nomination for the Broadway musical Cabaret (1967) and portrayed sadistic Rosa Klebb in the James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963). -- National Portrait Gallery

Carl van Vechten took this portrait photo on Feb. 13, 1962 (LOC).

Hear Lotte Lenya sing Moritat vom Mackie Messer aka Mack the Knife:

"Miss Lotte Lenya" is mentioned in the more familiar English version of Mack the Knife here sung by Bobby Darin:

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