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Kurt Weill

Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera)

Translated titleThe Threepenny Opera
SubtitlePlay with music in three acts after John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera"
Text informationBy Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann
Year(s) composed1928
Text AuthorBertolt Brecht
Instrumentationasx(fl, cl, bar. sax).tsx(ssx, bsn, bcl). tp.tbn (double bass); banjo (cello, guitar, Hawaiian guitar, mandolin, bandoneon)-timp/perc (tpt 2); harmonium (celesta, piano)
DurationFull evening, 65 minutes of music

Song list:

Moritat vom Mackie Messer // Morgenchoral des Peachum // Anstatt dass-Song // Hochzeitslied // Seeräuberjenny // Kanonen-Song // Liebeslied // Barbarasong // Erstes Dreigroschenfinale // Melodram // Pollys Lied // Ballade von der sexuellen Hörigkeit // Zuhälterballade // Ballade vom angenehmen Leben // Eifersuchtsduett // Zweites Dreigroschenfinale // Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens // Salomonsong // Ruf aus der Gruft // Grabschrift // Drittes Dreigroschenfinale // Anhang - Arie der Lucy (piano only)
PremiereFirst Production: August 31, 1928, Berlin, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Erich Engel, dir., Theo Mackeben, cond.


Authorized translationsEnglish -- Ralph Manheim & John Willett (outside the USA and Canada), Michael Feingold, Robert David McDonald & Jeremy Sams

French -- Jean-Claude Hémery

Italian -- Emilio Castellani

Authorized English adaptation: Marc Blitzstein


Macheath (Mack the Knife), notorious bandit and womanizer, runs afoul of Jonathan Peachum when he marries Peachum's daughter Polly in a ceremony of doubtful legality. Peachum's resolve to have Mack sent to the gallows is complicated by the fact that Mack's old army buddy is the chief of police, Tiger Brown. Peachum and his wife commence a series of strategems to ensnare Mack: bribing prostitutes to turn him in, exercising their influence over the police, and ultimately threatening to ruin the coronation of Queen Victoria by having all the beggars in London (whom Peachum controls) line the parade route. Mack is imprisoned, escapes, and is imprisoned again. When his hour of execution arrives, however, a mounted messenger appears with the Queen's reprieve, which includes a baronetcy and an annual pension of 10,000 pounds.


Singing roles: Street Singer, Macheath (tenor), J.J. Peachum (baritone), Mrs. Peachum (mezzo-soprano), Polly Peachum (soprano), Tiger Brown (bass-baritone), Lucy Brown (soprano), Jenny (mezzo-soprano), Constable Smith, ensemble. Speaking roles: Filch, the Rev. Kimball, the gang of thieves, beggars, prostitutes, policemen.

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