Timeline

March 2, 1905

Marcus Samuel Blitzstein born in Philadelphia.

1923-1926

Piano studies with Alexander Siloti; composition studies with Rosario Scalero at Curtis Institute of Music.

1925

First large-scale composition: Svarga, a ballet.

Marc Blitzstein in 1925
Marc Blitzstein in 1925

1926

Performs Liszt's Piano Concerto no. 1 with Philadelphia Orchestra.

1927

Brief composition studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Arnold Schoenberg in Berlin.

Late 1920s

Compositions: Settings of Walt Whitman; solo piano music.

1929-1933

Extensive travels in Europe, including a tour of Germany with Aaron Copland.
Compositions: Cain (ballet), string quartets, The Condemned (choral opera).

1930

Triple Sec (one-act opera), libretto by Ronald Jeans, plays on Broadway as part of Garrick Gaieties

1933

Marries writer and translator Eva Goldbeck, the daughter of Lina Abarbanell. They settle in Greenwich Village in New York, where Blitzstein will live for the rest of his life.

Painting of Eva Goldbeck
Eva Goldbeck

1935

Meets Bertolt Brecht, who suggests that Blitzstein compose an opera on the theme of prostitution as an allegory on the condition of laborers under capitalism.

1936

Eva Goldbeck dies.
Blitzstein writes music, lyrics, and book for The Cradle Will Rock during the summer, drawing on Brecht’s suggestion and on Kurt Weill’s ideas about musical theater articulated during rehearsals for Weill’s Johnny Johnson.

1937

The Cradle Will Rock scheduled for production by the Federal Theatre Project, directed Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman. The production is cancelled at the last minute, whereupon the cast and creative team rent a theater uptown and put on the show with Blitzstein at the piano and actors scattered throughout the audience to circumvent union restrictions. It is a surprise success, serving as a springboard for a Broadway opening in December. Musicraft issues a cast recording.

The Cradle Will Rock (1938 Off-Off Broadway) Music, Lyrics & Book by Marc Blitzstein Directed by Marc Blitzstein Shown: Olive Staunton
Olive Stanton in The Cradle Will Rock. Image courtesy of Photofest.

1937-1941

Compositions: I've Got the Tune (one-act radio opera), film scores, No for an Answer (opera).

1939

Meets Leonard Bernstein and forms a lifelong friendship.

Marc Blitzstein (left), Leonard Bernstein (circa 1945)
Blitzstein with Leonard Bernstein (seated). Image courtesy of Photofest

1941

Premiere of No for an Answer in New York. Despite a cast recording, the work does not have a theatrical run.

1942

Blitzstein joins the U.S. Army Air Force; he is stationed in England.

Blitzstein in uniform, 1943
Blitzstein in uniform, 1943

1943-1946

1946

Blitzstein receives an honorable discharge from the Army. Premiere of the Airborne Symphony in New York with Bernstein conducting; RCA issues a recording.

Marc Blitzstein, 1946 Shown from left: conductor Leonard Bernstein, composer Marc Blitzstein, narrator Robert Shaw NB: at recording of Airborne Symphony, New York City Center in June
Blitzstein (center) with Leonard Bernstein (left) and Robert Shaw (seated), at the recording of Airborne Symphony, 1946. Image courtesy of Photofest

1946-1949

Composition: Regina, an opera for Broadway based on Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes.

1947

Broadway revival of Cradle Will Rock, the first performance with orchestra.

1949

Premiere of Regina on Broadway. 68 performances.

Playbill cover for the Broadway production of Regina
Playbill cover for the Broadway production of Regina

1950-1955

Compositions: Reuben Reuben; translation and adaptation of The Threepenny Opera

1952

Concert premiere of The Threepenny Opera at Brandeis University with Leonard Bernstein conducting and Lotte Lenya in the cast.

1954

Off-Broadway premiere of The Threepenny Opera, which closes and reopens in 1955, going on to break records for the run of a musical with 2,611 consecutive performances.

wedding scene color

1955

Premiere of Reuben Reuben in a Broadway tryout in Boston. The show closes out of town.

1956-1959

Compositions: Juno, This Is the Garden (cantata), incidental music for Shakespeare plays

1958

Premiere of King Lear: A Study by the New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor.

1959

Juno (music and lyrics by Blitzstein, book by Joseph Stein) opens on Broadway. 16 performances.
Columbia issues a cast recording.

Playbill cover for the Broadway production of Juno, starring Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglass, Directed by José Ferrer.
Playbill cover for the Broadway production of Juno, starring Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglass, Directed by José Ferrer.

1960

Accepts commission from the Ford Foundation to compose an opera for the Metropolitan Opera. Blitzstein chooses the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti for the subject.

1960-1964

Compositions: two operas based on stories by Bernard Malamud; Sacco and Vanzetti (all unfinished).

Marc Blitzstein, 1963
Marc Blitzstein, 1963

January 22, 1964

Dies in Martinique.