Long-lost Lied: how a Kurt Weill song was rediscovered

(Financial Times) — When a previously unknown song by Kurt Weill resurfaced in the archives of the Free University Berlin in September, even scholars were taken by surprise. The composer of Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) fled Germany with the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s and quickly found success on Broadway once in American exile. While not all German-period works survived, his wife — the actress and singer Lotte Lenya — ensured that his legacy would be preserved through further research, performances and her own legendary recordings.

The rediscovered song — described as a “sensational” find by musicologist Elmar Juchem, managing editor of the Kurt Weill Edition — is “Das Lied vom weißen Käse” (“Song of the White Cheese”). Juchem said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the score while doing archival research for a new edition of Weill’s musical comedy Happy End. Lenya, who sang it at a revue in November of 1931, could not even remember the correct title. “It must be buried in a cellar somewhere,” she lamented while searching in the 1960s for a number which she recalled as the “Lied vom blinden Mädchen” (“Song of the Blind Girl”). In fact, the manuscript was sitting among the papers of the little-known actress Gerda Schäfer, an ensemble member of Berlin’s “Volksbühne” (People’s Theater) in the 1930s.

The revue, entitled “Wir sind ja sooo zufrieden” (“We are sooo perfectly content”), was organised by a group of young actors, some of whom had lost their jobs at the Volksbühne. The “Junge Volksbühne” sought a more radical alternative to the main house, which its members believed had strayed from its mission as a working-class theatre.  […]

Long-lost Lied