March 2, 1905
Marcus Samuel Blitzstein born in Philadelphia.
Piano studies with Alexander Siloti; composition studies with Rosario Scalero at Curtis Institute of Music.
First large-scale composition: Svarga, a ballet.
Performs Liszt's Piano Concerto no. 1 with Philadelphia Orchestra.
Brief composition studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Arnold Schoenberg in Berlin.
Compositions: Settings of Walt Whitman; solo piano music.
Extensive travels in Europe, including a tour of Germany with Aaron Copland.
Compositions: Cain (ballet), string quartets, The Condemned (choral opera).
Triple Sec (one-act opera), libretto by Ronald Jeans, plays on Broadway as part of Garrick Gaieties
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meets Leonard Bernstein and forms a lifelong friendship.
Premiere of No for an Answer in New York. Despite a cast recording, the work does not have a theatrical run.
Blitzstein joins the U.S. Army Air Force; he is stationed in England.
Blitzstein receives an honorable discharge from the Army. Premiere of the Airborne Symphony in New York with Bernstein conducting; RCA issues a recording.
Composition: Regina, an opera for Broadway based on Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes.
Broadway revival of Cradle Will Rock, the first performance with orchestra.
Premiere of Regina on Broadway. 56 performances.
Compositions: Reuben Reuben; translation and adaptation of The Threepenny Opera
Concert premiere of The Threepenny Opera at Brandeis University with Leonard Bernstein conducting and Lotte Lenya in the cast.
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.
Premiere of Reuben Reuben in a Broadway tryout in Boston. The show closes out of town.
Compositions: Juno, This Is the Garden (cantata), incidental music for Shakespeare plays
Premiere of King Lear: A Study by the New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor.
Juno (music and lyrics by Blitzstein, book by Joseph Stein) opens on Broadway. 16 performances.
Columbia issues a cast recording.
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.
Compositions: two operas based on stories by Bernard Malamud; Sacco and Vanzetti (all unfinished).
January 22, 1964
Dies in Martinique.