*Starred Review* Twenty years ago, Mordden published the best book on the greatest team in the history of the American musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein (1992). Now he presents the best book on the foremost couple in twentieth-century musical theater, who depended on one another for 25 years, during 5 of which they were divorced, yet did a mere handful of pieces together. Of course, one of those is the arguably greatest work of twentieth-century musical theater, Die Dreigroschenoper—The Threepenny Opera. Only after his death, in 1950, did she become for the world what she was for him, his definitive exponent. Mordden portrays them as an odd couple, she the quintessential good-time girl, who exploited her magnetic attractiveness to captivate theater audiences as well as plenty of lovers; he a dedicated, adventurous composer, ever seeking a new theatrical challenge, who could have only one woman in his life. Mordden doesn’t show them developing into their characters or more than mention their nonworking lives, so that this isn’t the dual biography the subtitle suggests. But then, good biographies of each already exist, as Mordden acknowledges in a fine bibliographical essay (there’s also a marvelous discographical essay). Mordden instead appreciatively chronicles Weill’s and Lenya’s careers, writing with flair and personality rarely found in anyone who knows his subject so thoroughly. --Ray Olson
About the Author
ETHAN MORDDEN is the author of dozens of books, both fiction and nonfiction. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and other publications. He lives in New York.