Marc Blitzstein (March 2, 1905 – January 22, 1964) was an American composer.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Jewish parents, among his works were The Cradle Will Rock, whose premiere was directed by Orson Welles, the opera Regina, an adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, the Broadway musical Juno based on Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, No For An Answer, and his off-Broadway translation/adaptation of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. He also completed translation/adaptations of Brecht's and Weill's Mahagonny and Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, with music by Paul Dessau.
The dramatic premiere of the pro-union The Cradle Will Rock was at the Venice Theater on June 16, 1937. The cast had been locked out of the Maxine Elliott Theatre by government troops, and so a performance without sets or costumes took place, with actors and musicians performing from the audience and Blitzstein narrating at the piano. In 1939, Blitzstein's close friend Leonard Bernstein led a revival of the play at Harvard, narrating from the piano just as Blitzstein had done. The 1999 Tim Robbins film Cradle Will Rock was built around this somewhat-fictionalized historical event.
Additional major compositions include the autobiographical radio song play "I've Got the Tune," The Airborne Symphony, and Reuben Reuben. At his death Blitzstein was at work on "Idiots First," a one-act opera based on the eponymous story by Bernard Malamud – to be part of a set of one-acts called Tales of Malamud – which Ned Rorem has called "his best work"; and the piece Blitzstein said would be his magnum opus, the three-act opera commissioned by the Ford Foundation and optioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Sacco and Vanzetti. Both Tales of Malamud and Sacco and Vanzetti were completed, posthumously, with the approval of Blitzstein's estate, by composer Leonard Lehrman (born 1949).
Although Blitzstein married novelist Eva Goldbeck, he was openly gay. He cited his homosexuality as the reason for discontinuing his membership in the Communist Party, which did not consider homosexuality compatible with the party's ideals.
In 1951 Blitzstein was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In closed session he admitted having been a member of the Communist Party and then refused to "name names", and wound up not being called upon to testify publicly. However, he was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses.
In 1964, Blitzstein was robbed and beaten in Fort-de-France, Martinique by three Portuguese sailors after a sexual encounter. He identified his assailants, who were later convicted of manslaughter after he had died of his wounds in the hospital. Leonard Bernstein and others deemed his legacy "incalculable." On September 30, 2005, Praeger published the long-awaited Marc Blitzstein: A Bio-Bibliography, by Leonard Lehrman, at 645 pages, the longest published bio-bibliography of any American composer. It is available at http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/GR0027.aspx
Complete Works for Broadway