The Threepenny Opera

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The Threepenny Opera (German: Die Dreigroschenoper) is a musical by German dramatist Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, in collaboration with translator Elisabeth Hauptmann and set designer Caspar Neher.[1] It was adapted from an 18th-century English ballad opera, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, and offers a Marxist critique of the capitalist world.[2] It opened on 31 August 1928 at Berlin's Theater am Schiffbauerdamm.

By 1933, when Brecht and Weill were forced to leave Germany by the rise of Hitler, the play had been translated into 18 languages and performed more than 10000 times on European stages.[3]

Contents

Overview

Set in a marginally-anachronistic Victorian London, the play focuses on Macheath, an amoral, antiheroic criminal.

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. His attempts are hindered by the fact that the Chief of Police, Tiger Brown, is Macheath's old army comrade. Still, Peachum exerts his influence and eventually gets Macheath arrested and sentenced to hang. Macheath escapes this fate via a deus ex machina moments before the execution when, in an unrestrained parody of a happy ending, a messenger from the Queen arrives to pardon Macheath and grant him the title of Baron.

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