The Threepenny Opera

content.chilifresh-1The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill (CD Shows Threepenny Opera 4423; 832 B742; Film FL 1222)

When famed German playwright Bertolt Brecht set out to write a musical capturing the underbelly of English Victorian society, he created one of the masterpieces of twentieth century theatre. Together with composer Kurt Weill, Brecht adapted a British opera, John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, to create his unforgettable critique of capitalism and excess.  Centered on anti-hero Macheath (aka Mac the Knife), Brecht’s musical follows the attempts of Mr. Peachum, king of the beggars, to have Mac destroyed for daring to marry Peachum’s daughter Polly.  On the surface, Brecht’s play is about the tawdry lives of thieves and prostitutes, but it is also a challenge to the comfortable lives of middle-class audience members.  The surreal ending, which includes a cameo from the Queen of England, is a challenge to the typical happy ending expected of muscials.  Today, the musical is perhaps best known for the brilliant song “Mack the Knife” and for being banned in Germany with the rise of the Nazism. It is also frequently cited as one of the major inspirations of the recent, popular musical Urinetown.

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