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Lotte Lenya

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Lotte Lenya (October 18, 1898 – November 27, 1981), singer and actress, born Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, in Vienna, Austria. She is best known for her performance as Jenny in Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and some other Brecht-Weill plays. To a younger audience, she is known for her part as the villain Rosa Klebb in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love.

As a child of working class Roman Catholic parents, Lenya wanted to be a dancer. She moved to study in Zurich, Switzerland in 1914, taking up her first job at the Schauspielhaus using the stage name Lotte Lenja. She moved to seek work in Berlin, in 1921. The following year she was seen by her future husband, the German composer Kurt Weill during an audition, although they did not meet properly until 1924 through a mutual acquaintance, the writer Georg Kaiser. Lenya married Kurt Weill in 1926.

After she accepted the part of Jenny in the first performance of The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) in 1928, the part became her breakthrough role. During the last years of the Weimar Republic, she was busy in film and theatre, and especially in Brecht-Weill plays. She also made several recordings of her husband’s songs. In these, she sang in a high, wavering pitch with a strange contrast.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany, she left the country, having become estranged from Weill. In March 1933, she fled to Paris, France where she sang the leading part in Brecht-Weill’s “sung ballet” The Seven Deadly Sins.

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