Lotte Lenya (1898-1981) sang in a voice once described as “an octave below laryngitis”, but she was one of the great musical theatre performers of the 20th century and one of the supreme interpreters of the songs of her husband, composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950). Weill and Lenya are shown in the photograph above; the photograph below shows her as Jenny in Weill and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.
Lenya’s legacy and inspiration are celebrated each year in the annual Lotte Lenya Competition for theater singers, sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and presented in Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall. (The link includes a documentary about the history of the Lenya Competition, Singing the Story.) Lenya Competition winners have gone on to perform on Broadway, with important opera and theater companies, and in many other venues.
This year’s competition takes place on Saturday, April 12. 14 singers will take part in the final round from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; finalists will perform in a free public concert at 8 p.m. after which the winners will be announced. The 2014 finalists include two Eastman graduates: Natalie Ballenger (BM ’11) and Diana Rose Becker (BM ’07). More information is available here.