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Encyclopedia > The Threepenny Opera
Die Dreigroschenoper, original German poster from Berlin, 1928.
Die Dreigroschenoper, original German poster from Berlin, 1928.

Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) is a revolutionary piece of musical theatre (not in fact an opera), adapted from an 18th century English ballad opera, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, by German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, in collaboration with translator Elisabeth Hauptmann. Premiering on August 31, 1928, at Berlin's Schiffbauerdamm Theatre, Die Dreigroschenoper offers a socialist critique of the capitalist world. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (500x636, 55 KB) Summary Die Dreigroschenoper - German poster from 1928. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (500x636, 55 KB) Summary Die Dreigroschenoper - German poster from 1928. ... The Fantasticks was the longest-running musical in history. ... John Gay John Gay (30 June 1685 - 4 December 1732) was an English poet and dramatist. ... Painting based on The Beggars Opera, Scene V, William Hogarth, c. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... An album of Weills music by operatic soprano Teresa Stratas… …and one by industrial music band The Young Gods. ... Elisabeth Hauptmann (born June 20, 1897 in Peckelsheim, Westphalia; died April 20, 1973 in East Berlin) was a German writer, who worked together with Bertolt Brecht. ... August 31 is the 243rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (244th in leap years), with 122 days remaining. ... Visitor card from about 1908 Berliner Ensemble at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm The Theater, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, was opened on 19 November 1892 as Neues Theater Which means new theater. The adress is am Schiffbauerdamm 4a/5 in Berlin Germany. ...



Set in Victorian London, the play focuses on the stories of the working class, rather than those attending Handel's upper-crust operas, fashionable at the time of The Beggar's Opera. The protagonist, in the original opera as well as the Brecht/Weill adaptation, is Macheath, an elegant highwayman for Gay and a vicious anti-heroic criminal for Brecht/Weill. In a nod to the earlier work, Weill sets his opening number, Morgenchoral des Peachum, to the music used by composer Pepusch in Gay's original. Folk image of a mounted highwayman Highwayman was a term used particularly in Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries to describe robbers who targeted people traveling by stagecoach and other modes of transport along public highways. ... In literature and film, an anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws and ultimate fortune traditionally assigned to villains but nonetheless also have enough heroic qualities or intentions to gain the sympathy of readers or viewers. ...

Macheath (Mackie Messer, or Mack the Knife) marries Polly Peachum. This displeases her father, who controls the beggars of London, and he endeavours to have Macheath hanged. But his moves are hindered by the fact that the chief of police, Tiger Brown, is Macheath's childhood friend. Still, Peachum exerts his influence and eventually gets Macheath arrested and sentenced to hang. Moments before the execution, in an unrestrained parody of a happy ending, Brecht sends in a hard-riding messenger from the "Queen" (the chronology is deliberately muddied) to pardon Macheath and grant him a baronetcy. This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... Parody of Back to the Future In contemporary usage, a parody is a work that imitates another work in order to ridicule, ironically comment on, or poke some affectionate fun at the work itself, the subject of the work, the author or fictional voice of the parody, or another subject. ...

The play directly challenges the audience by breaching the "fourth wall" with what Brecht called Verfremdungseffekt, or the "alienation effect." For example, slogans are projected on the back wall and the characters sometimes carry picket signs, or stand at times with their backs to the audience. The play challenges conventional notions of property as well as theater. It asks the central rhetorical question, "Who is the bigger criminal: he who robs a bank or he who founds one?" This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The alienation effect (from the German Verfremdungseffekt) is a theatrical and cinematic device which prevents the audience from losing itself passively and completely in the character created by the actor, and which consequently leads the audience to be a consciously critical observer. ...

Die Dreigroschenoper is an early example of the modern musical comedy genre. Its score is deeply influenced by jazz and mandates a fifteen-piece jazz combo. Its opening and closing lament, "Die Moritat vom Mackie Messer," was written just before the Berlin premiere, when actor Harald Paulsen (Macheath) threatened to quit if his character did not receive an introduction; this creative emergency resulted in what would become the work's most popular song, later translated into English by Marc Blitzstein as "Mack the Knife" and now a standard which has been covered by Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and countless others. Musical theater (or theatre) is a form of theater combining music, songs, dance, and spoken dialogue. ... Jazz is a musical art form that originated in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States at around the start of the 20th century, mostly popular in the 1920s. ... Marc Blitzstein (March 2, 1905 – January 22, 1964) was an American composer. ... Mack the Knife, originally Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera. ... Bobby Darin Bobby Darin (May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) (born Walden Robert Cassotto) was one of the most popular American big band performers and rock and roll teen idols of the late 1950s. ... Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996), also known as Lady Ella (the First Lady of Song), was considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th Century. ... Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and Academy Award-winning actor, often cited as the finest male American popular song vocalist of the 20th century. ...

Musical numbers

Vorspiel (Prelude)

Nr 1 Ouverture
2 Moritat vom Mackie Messer ("Mack the Knife" - Ausrufer - Street singer)

Erster Akt (First Act)

Nr.3 Morgenchoral des Peachum (Peachum's Morning Anthem - Peachum)
4 Anstatt dass-Song (Instead of Song - Peachum, Frau Peachum)
5 Hochzeits-Lied (Wedding Song) (The Gang)
6 Seeräuberjenny (Pirate Jenny) (Polly)*
7 Kanonen-Song (Cannon Song) (Macheath, Brown)
8 Liebeslied (Love Song) (Polly, Macheath)
9 Barbarasong (Barbara Song) (Polly)†
10 I. Dreigroschenfinale (First Threepenny Finale) (Polly, Peachum, Frau Peachum)

Zweiter Akt (Second Act)

Nr.11 Melodram (Melodrama - Macheath)
11a Polly's Lied (Polly's Song - Polly)
12 Ballade von der sexuellen Hörigkeit (Ballad of Sexual Dependency - Frau Peachum)
13 Zuhälterballade (Tango Ballad - Jenny, Macheath)
14 Ballade vom angenehmen Leben (Ballad of the Pleasant Life - Macheath)
15 Eifersuchtsduett (Jealousy Duet - Lucy, Polly)
16 II. Dreigroschenfinale (Second Threepenny Finale - Macheath, Frau Peachum, Chorus)

Dritter Akt (Third Act)

Nr.17 Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens (Useless Song - Peachum)
17a Reminiszenz (Reminiscence)
18 Salomonsong (Salomon Song - Jenny)
19 Ruf aus der Gruft (Call From the Grave - Macheath)
20 Grabschrift (Grave Song - Macheath)
20a Gang zum Galgen
21 III. Dreigroschenfinale (Third Threepenny Finale - Brown, Frau Peachum, Peachum, Macheath, Polly, Chorus)

* In many productions, "Seeräuberjenny" ("Pirate Jenny") is sung by the character of Jenny. In the original, it is sung by Polly during the wedding scene, but is sometimes moved to the Second Act and given to Jenny. In the 1956 off-Broadway production starring Lotte Lenya, Polly sang a version of the "Bilbao Song" from Brecht and Weill's "Happy End" in the first act wedding scene.

† In the Marc Blitztein adaptation, this song was moved to the second act and sung by the character of Lucy.


The original German version was a huge success, performed more than 10,000 times and translated into 18 languages. The work was translated into French as L'Opéra de quat'sous; Pabst's French version of his film also used this title. Die Dreigroschenoper has been translated into English several times. One was published by Blitzstein in the 1950s and first staged under Leonard Bernstein's baton at Brandeis University in 1952. It was later used on Broadway. Other translations include those by Ralph Mannheim and John Willett (1979), by noted Irish playwright and translator Frank McGuinness (1992), and by Jeremy Sams for a production at London's Donmar Warehouse in 1994. Georg Wilhelm Pabst (August 25, 1885 - May 29, 1967) was a film director. ... Leonard Bernstein (pronounced BERN-styne)[1] (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist. ... Brandeis University is a private university in Waltham, Massachusetts, United States. ... Frank McGuinness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... Jeremy Sams (born January 12, 1957 in London, England) is a British director, writer, translator, orchestrator, musical director, film composer, and lyricist. ... The Donmar Warehouse is a small theatre in the Covent Garden area of the West End of London. ...

Broadway (New York)

At least seven productions have been mounted in New York, on and off Broadway.

  • The first, adapted into English by Gifford Cochran and Jerrold Krimsky and staged by Francesco Von Mendelssohn, featured Robert Chisholm as Macheath. It opened on April 13, 1933, and closed after twelve performances. The brevity of the run has been attributed to the stylistic gap between the Weill-Brecht work and the typical Broadway musical during a busy and vintage period in Broadway history.
  • In 1954 Lotte Lenya won a Tony Award for her role as Jenny in a somewhat softened version of The Threepenny Opera by Marc Blitzstein, which played Off-Broadway at the Theater de Lys in Greenwich Village for several years. Blitzstein had translated the work into English; Lenya, Weill's wife since the 1920s, had sung both Jenny and Polly earlier in Germany. Jenny's (originally Polly's) ballad, dreaming of quitting her work as a barmaid to lead a pirate assault on the city, is well known: And the ship with eight sails, and with 50 cannons, will fire on the city (Und das Schiff mit acht Segeln und mit fünfzig Kanonen wird beschießen die Stadt).
  • Liberally adapted by playwright Wallace Shawn, the work was brought back to Broadway [1] by the Roundabout Theatre Company in March 2006 with Alan Cumming playing Macheath, Nellie McKay as Polly, Cyndi Lauper as Jenny, Jim Dale as Mr. Peachum, Ana Gasteyer as Mrs. Peachum, Carlos Leon as Filch, and Brian Charles Rooney as a male Lucy. Included in the cast were New York drag performers Hattie Hathaway (Brian Butterick), Edie (Christopher Kenney), Flotilla DeBarge (Kevin Rennard), and performance artist David Cale. The director was Scott Elliott, the choreographer Aszure Barton, and, while not adored by the critics, the production was nominated for the "Best Musical Revival" Tony award. Jim Dale was also Tony-nominated, for Best Supporting Actor. The run ended on June 25, 2006.
  • A 2006 NY International Fringe Festival adaptation utilized stylistic and character elements of The Threepenny Opera under the title "Imminent Indeed (or, if you prefer, Polly Peachum's Peculiar Penchant for Plosives)." It was written and directed by Bryn Manion in association with Aisling Arts [2] and performed by: Christiane Amorosia (Polly), Mike Amato (Mr. Peachum), Berto Colon (Desmond Ditchdigger), Kate Geller (Doll), Karen Grenke (Doll), Heather Helton (Doll), Natalie Pero (Doll), Liza Pross (Doll), Heather Rogers (Snitch), Maria Rusolo (Lucy), Kevin Schwab (Macheath), Sarah Stephens (Jenny), Christopher T. VanDijk (Matthias), and Catherine Wronowski (Snatch).

1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Lotte Lenya (October 18, 1898 – November 27, 1981), singer and actor, born Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, in Vienna, Austria. ... What is popularly called the Tony Award (formally, the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre) is an annual award celebrating achievements in live American theater, including musical theater, primarily honoring productions on Broadway in New York. ... Marc Blitzstein (March 2, 1905 – January 22, 1964) was an American composer. ... Off-Broadway plays or musicals are performed in New York City in smaller theatres than Broadway, but larger than Off-Off-Broadway, productions. ... Illustration by Arthur Rackham of the ballad The Twa Corbies A ballad is a story, usually a narrative or poem, in a song. ... 1976 (MCMLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Thursday. ... Raúl Rafael Juliá y Arcelay [IPA: raʊul rafaɪɛl xulia i ɒ:θɛlaɪ] (March 9, 1940 – October 24, 1994) was a Puerto Rican actor who lived and worked for many years in the United States. ... Blair Brown (born 23 April 1946 in Washington, District of Columbia) is an acclaimed stage actress who has also reached a broader audience with her television and film work, particularly, in the 1980s. ... Ellen Greene (b. ... It has been suggested that Childrens gramophone records be merged into this article or section. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... For professional wrestler Steve Borden, see Sting (wrestler). ... Cover of 2003 rerelease of two 1963 albums - Georgia Brown and Georgia Brown sings Gershwin. ... A former secretary, Maureen McGovern quickly became the new it singer in 1973 with the Oscar-winning Morning After. ... Kim Criswell is an American musical entertainer and actress born on July 19, 1957 in Hampton, Virginia . ... Ethyl Eichelberger (July 17, 1945 - August 12, 1990) was an American drag performer, playwright and actor. ... Edgar Allan Poe had a simple moustache. ... A DOVO straight razor Straight razor is the name given to a reusable knife blade used for shaving hair. ... Wallace Shawn (born November 12, 1943) is an American actor and writer. ... The Roundabout Theatre Company is a non-profit, subscription based theatre company, based in New York City. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... Alan Cumming (born 27 January 1965 in Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross), is a Scottish film, television and stage actor, best known for his film roles in GoldenEye, as Boris Grishenko; in X2: X-Men United, as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler; and on the stage with his Tony Award-winning performance as... Nellie McKay (born Nell Marie McKay on 13 April 1982) is a British-born American singer-songwriter, actress and former stand-up comedian, noted for her critically-acclaimed debut album Get Away from Me. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Jim Dale MBE (born James Smith on August 15, 1935) is a British singer, songwriter, and actor. ... Ana Kristina Gasteyer (born May 4, 1967) is an American actress and comedian. ... Carlos Leon (born July 10, 1966 in Cuba) is a personal trainer-to-the-stars turned actor. ... Flotilla DeBarge is the stage name of Kevin Joseph Rennard, a drag queen based in New York City. ... Imminent Indeed is a gothic adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. ...

West End (London)

1994 (MCMXCIV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated as the International Year of the Family and the International Year of the Sport and the Olympic Ideal by United Nations. ... Nick Dear is a British play and screen writer, whose work includes an adaptation of Berthold Brechts The Threepenny Opera and the drama Henry VIII for ITV, which starred Ray Winstone in the title role. ... The Royal National Theatre from Waterloo Bridge The Royal National Theatre is a building complex and theatre company located on the South Bank in London, England immediately east of the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. ... For album titles with the same name, see 2002 (album). ... 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the Anno Domini (common) era. ...


  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1930, on Telefunken. Incomplete. Lotte Lenya (as Polly), Bahn? (as Jenny), Valetti-R? (as Frau Peachum), Trenk­-Trebitsch (as Macheath), Gerron? (as the Moritatensänger), and Ponto (as Herr Peachum). Conducted by Mackeben.
  • The Threepenny Opera, 1954, on Decca Broadway 012-159-463-2. In English. Lyrics by Marc Blitzstein. The 1950s Broadway cast, starring Jo Sullivan (as Polly), Lotte Lenya (as Jenny), Charlotte Rae (Frau Peachum), Scott Merrill (Macheath), Gerald Price (Street Singer), and Martin Wolfson (Peachum). Beatrice Arthur sings Lucy, normally a small role, here assigned an extra number. Complete recording of the score, without spoken dialogues. Conducted by Matlowsky.
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1955, on Vanguard, with Liane, Felbermayer, Fassler, Roswaenge, Jerger, and Preger, conducted by Adler.
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1958, on CBS MK 42637. In German. Lotte Lenya, who also supervised the production, Kóczián, Hesterburg, Schellow, Neuss, and Trenk-Trebitsch, Arndt Chorus, Sender Freies Berlin Orchestra, conducted by Wilhelm Brückner-Rüggeberg. Complete recording of the score, without spoken dialogues.
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1966, conducted by Rennert on Philips. With Huebner, Teichmann, Mey, Korte, Brammer, and Kutschera.
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1968, on Polydor 00289 4428349 (2 CDs). In German. Conducted by James Last. The only recording up to the present, that contains the complete spoken dialogues.
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1990, on Decca 289 430 075-2. Ute Lemper, Milva, Dernesch, René Kollo, Boysen, Adorf. RIAS Berlin Sinfonietta, John Mauceri.
  • The Threepenny Opera, 1994, on CDJAY 1244. Donmar Warehouse (London) production. Translated by Robert David Macdonald (lyrics translated by Jeremy Sams). Conducted by Yershon. With Small, Hugo, Hall?, Hollander, Walter?, and Mannion-T.
  • Die Dreigroschenoper, 1994, on Capriccio. Conducted by Latham-König, with Steinsky, Ramm, Henschel, Raffeiner, Wollrad?, and Kante.

Also note: Lotte Lenya (October 18, 1898 – November 27, 1981), singer and actor, born Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, in Vienna, Austria. ... Marc Blitzstein (March 2, 1905 – January 22, 1964) was an American composer. ... Lotte Lenya (October 18, 1898 – November 27, 1981), singer and actor, born Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, in Vienna, Austria. ... Charlotte Rae, as Edna Garrett on The Facts of Life. ... Beatrice Arthur with Angela Lansbury at the 1989 Emmy Awards. ... Lotte Lenya (October 18, 1898 – November 27, 1981), singer and actor, born Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, in Vienna, Austria. ... James Last 2006 James Last together with fan Guenter Krueger from Berlin James Last (born Hans Last on April 17, 1929 in Bremen) is a German composer and big band leader with a large fan base in Europe and world-wide. ... Ute Lemper (born July 4, 1963) is a German chanteuse and actress. ... Milva, on the cover of Von Tag zu Tag album 1979 Milva, real name Maria Ilva Biolcati is a famous Italian singer, actress and Tv personality. ... Jeremy Sams (born January 12, 1957 in London, England) is a British director, writer, translator, orchestrator, musical director, film composer, and lyricist. ...

  • Mackeben?/Neher/Lenya/Gert/Forster/Busch/Rasp, cast of German version of 1931 Pabst movie.
  • Mackeben?/Florelle/Lion/de Matha/Préjean/Artaud/Modot, cast of French version of Pabst movie.
  • Symonette/Myszak/Shoumanova/Herrmann-A/Jung/Kmentt/Becht, 1980s?, on Koch.
  • Gruber-HK/MacDonald-S/Brauer/Hagen-N/Raabe/Holtz?/Gruber-HK, 1999, on RCA.


There have been at least four film versions. German director Georg Wilhelm Pabst made German- and French-language versions simultaneously (a common practice in the early days of sound films) in 1931. Another version was directed by Wolfgang Staudte in West Germany in 1962. Scenes with Sammy Davis, Jr. were added for its American release. In 1990 an American version (renamed Mack the Knife) was released, directed by Menahem Golan, with Raúl Julia as Macheath and Roger Daltrey as the Street Singer. Georg Wilhelm Pabst (August 25, 1885 - May 29, 1967) was a film director. ... 1931 (MCMXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link is to a full 1931 calendar). ... Wolfgang Staudte (October 9, 1906 in Saarbrücken - January 19, 1984) was a German film director. ... 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar). ... This article is about the entertainer. ... 1990 (MCMXC) was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Menahem Golan is an Israeli director/producer who is most famous (or infamous) for his association with Cannon films, a company he ran with his cousin Yoram Globus. ... Roger Harry Daltrey, CBE (born 1 March 1944) is a rock vocalist, songwriter, and actor, best known as the founder and lead singer of The Who, an English rock band. ...

See also

The period of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) between the fall of the German Empire and the rise of the Third Reich is considered an early renaissance in world cinema, with many influential and important films being made. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
CTC - The Threepenny Opera - Spring 1999 (1108 words)
The Threepenny Opera of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht is derived from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, written in 1728 as a satire against the popular heroic operatic style of Handel.
In The Threepenny Opera, we are confronted with the depths of depravity- humanity feeding and being fed by its own lust, power, and greed.
All in all, each and every one of the characters in The Threepenny Opera are ensalved by and indulging in the demands of their appetites...without exception, without apology.
  More results at FactBites »



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