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date: 20 October 2019

Dreigroschenoper, Die (‘The Threepenny Opera’)locked

  • Stephen Hinton

Extract

(‘The Threepenny Opera’)

Play with music in a prologue and three acts by Kurt Weill (music), Bertolt Brecht (book) and Elisabeth Hauptmann (translation) after John Gay’ s Beggar’s Opera, The; Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, 31 August 1928.

First came the idea of adaptation. Having been alerted to the huge success of Sir Nigel Playfair’s revival of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, which had opened on 5 June 1920, Brecht had his collaborator Elisabeth Hauptmann prepare a working translation of the piece in the winter months of 1927–8. Shortly afterwards he was approached by the young impresario Ernst Josef Aufricht who was looking for a play with which to launch his new company at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin. Brecht offered Aufricht The Beggar’s Opera, even though work on it had scarcely begun. Between its inception early in 1928 and its first performance on 31 August eight or so months later, the ‘play with music’ underwent numerous and substantial reworkings, especially during the chaotic final month of rehearsal under the direction of Erich Engel. Apart from the Gay text, Brecht also used poems by François Villon (for which he was later charged with plagiarism, having failed to credit the German translator, K. L. Ammer) and Rudyard Kipling. Announced in May as ...

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