No one can touch Lotte Lenya on “Pirate Jenny.” Is it fair to compare other performances of the song to one of the original actors/collaborators the show was written for? Strangely enough, it is. Despite Lenya becoming known for being Bertolt Brecht’s wife and muse (thereby making her a muse to composer Kurt Weill, as well), her original role in The Three Penny Opera was Jenny. It is Polly (originatde by Roma Bahn) who got to sing the original “Pirate Jenny.” Lenya performed the mezzo-soprano role of Jenny, performing “Solomon Song” and “Tango-Ballad.”
But, of all the songs Lenya became known for and her wide variety of roles in international theater, her performance as Jenny in The Three-Penny Opera is the most iconic largely because of her “Pirate Jenny.” The long-running 1956 revival changed the book of the show (far softer than the original language, perhaps even gentler) and reassigned many of the songs to different performers. Polly lost “Pirate Jenny” and “Barbara Song” to Jenny and Lucy (Bea Arthur, singing a soprano role as a tenor) and the show just flowed better.