IN THE PARTNERSHIP (Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, January 2015), PAMELA KATZ vividly portrays the tempestuous collaboration between the renegade poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht and the gifted composer Kurt Weill. They were the geniuses who created the theatrical and musical masterworks The Threepenny Opera and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny amid the most turbulent years of the twentieth century. These two remarkable men, together with their brilliant women—Lotte Lenya, Helene Weigel and Elisabeth Hauptmann—challenged society and revolutionized the worlds of music and theater. Katz offers a complex biographical portrait of five fiercely creative, politically uncompromising and astonishingly original artists: two men enshrined by history, and three women left in shadows. Intellectually and artistically exhilarating, but fraught with psychological drama, the group’s time together shaped for each member an enduring personal, political, and cultural vision. Staying close to the artists as they transform music and theater, the book weaves a suspenseful tale of rivalry, jealousy, manipulation, political debate, and creativity. Unfolding within a broken society struggling to cope with what has passed—the Great War—and the Nazi threat to come, the story of Brecht, Weill, Lenya, Weigel, and Hauptmann make even Sally Bowles’s antics pale in comparison. The Partnership is a real Brechtian drama—hell-bent on rebellion and refusing a simple ending— the last burst of freedom before the darkness.
about the book
The culture of Weimar Germany is at its most provocative and profound in this scintillating portrait of its leading theatrical luminaries. Novelist and film maker Katz explores the partnership, starting in 1927, of Marxist playwright and enfant terrible Bertholt Brecht and German-Jewish composer Kurt Weill; their 1928 musical The Threepenny Opera, with its well-known song “Mack the Knife,” gained fame for its tuneful satire of the sharklike soullessness of bourgeois society. She adds vibrant sketches of their female supporting cast: the singer Lotte Lenya, Weill’s perennially unfaithful wife and muse; Brecht’s wife Helene Weigel, an accomplished actress who managed Brecht’s life and tolerated his mistresses; and Brecht’s collaborator Elisabeth Hauptmann, who wrote a good chunk of his oeuvre, mostly without credit or pay, and also shared his bed. Katz gives an uproarious view of the ferment of interwar Berlin’s theatrical avant-garde, with Brecht’s tantrums, power