Born in Dessau, Germany, Kurt Weill studied at the Hoshchule für Musik in Berlin under the composer Engelbert Humperdinck. He composed his first opera, Der Protagonist at the age of 26. Initially, his work was well received in Germany, and he soon developed a relationship with playwright and theater practitioner, Bertolt Brecht. Together, the two of them created Mahagonny (which later became Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny) and Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera).
It was only a couple of years later that Weill's controversial operas became dangerous for him. In 1932 he left Berlin, well aware that his political voice and Jewish birth put him in great danger. It was not until after the Second World War that Weill's music was ever heard again in Germany.
He travelled to Paris, and London, but by 1937 he had settled in New York. His fondness, and great compositional capacity for popular American musical styles such as jazz and blues, made America a great fit for him. His work spanned several theatrical genres, as he provided the music for plays, composed musicals such as Lady in the Dark and One Touch of Venus, and also adapted plays into complete operas, as he did with Elmer Rice's Street Scene.
Other noted works include his operetta Knickerbocker Holiday which became famous for the 'September Song', the musical Lost in the Stars, and his American folk opera Down in the Valley.
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