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Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera, adapt. Blitzstein)(Adapted by Marc Blitzstein)

Play with music after John Gay's The Beggar's Opera; in three acts. By Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann. English adaptation by Marc Blitzstein.

Work Details

Duration

Full Evening, 55 minutes music

First Broadway Production

10 March 1954, New York, Theater de Lys, Carmen Capalbo, dir., Samuel Matlowsky, cond.

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Prologue

After the , the Street Singer comes onstage with a barrel organ and sings of the crimes of the notorious bandit and womanizer Macheath, Mack the Knife (). The setting is a fair in Soho (London), just before Queen Victoria’s coronation.

Act I

Act I begins in the shop of Jonathan Peachum (), who controls London’s beggars, equipping and training them in return for a cut of their “earnings.” He enrolls a new beggar with the help of his wife, after which they notice that their grown daughter Polly did not come home the previous night (). The scene shifts to an empty stable where Macheath is about to marry Polly, as soon as his gang has stolen and brought all the necessary food and furnishings (). No vows are exchanged, but Polly is satisfied, and everyone sits down to a banquet. Since none of the gang members can provide fitting entertainment, Polly does it herself (). The gang gets nervous when Chief of Police Tiger Brown arrives, but Brown turns out to be an old army buddy of Mack’s () who has prevented him from being arrested all these years. Everyone else exits and Mack and Polly celebrate their love (). Then Polly returns home and defiantly announces her marriage, as her parents urge her to get a divorce and Mrs. Peachum resolves to bribe Mack’s favorite prostitutes (). Polly reveals Mack’s ties to Brown, which gives Mr. and Mrs. Peachum an idea about how to snare Mack, and the trio meditates on the world’s corruption ().

Act II

Polly tells Mack that her father will have him arrested. He makes arrangements to leave London, explaining his bandit “business” to Polly so she can manage it in his absence, and he departs ( and ). Polly takes over the gang decisively as Mrs. Peachum bribes Jenny, Mack’s old lover, to turn him in (“Ballad of Dependency” reprise). On the way out of London, Mack stops at his favorite brothel to visit Jenny (). Brown arrives and apologetically arrests Mack, who goes to jail. He bribes the guard to remove his handcuffs (); then his girlfriend, Lucy–Brown’s daughter–arrives and declares her love (). Polly arrives, and she and Lucy quarrel (). After Polly leaves, Lucy engineers Mack’s escape. When Mr. Peachum finds out, he threatens Brown and forces him to send the police after Mack. The action stops for another meditation on the unpleasant human condition ().

Act III

Jenny comes to the Peachums’ shop to demand her bribe money, which Mrs. Peachum refuses to pay. Jenny reveals that Mack is at Suky Tawdry’s house. When Brown arrives, determined to arrest Peachum and the beggars, he is horrified to learn that the beggars are already in position and only Mr. Peachum can stop them (). To placate Peachum, Brown’s only option is to arrest Mack and have him executed. Jenny mourns Mack’s plight (). In the next scene, Mack is back in jail (). He begs the gang to raise a sufficient bribe, but they cannot ( part 2). A parade of visitors–Brown, Jenny, Peachum, and Polly–enters as Mack prepares to die (). Then a sudden reversal: A messenger on horseback arrives to announce that Macheath has been pardoned by the Queen and granted a castle and pension (). The Street Singer delivers the coda ( reprise).

  • Ballad of Mack the Knife
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  • Morning Anthem
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  • Instead Of Song
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  • Wedding Song
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  • Pirate Jenny
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  • Army Song
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  • Love Song
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  • Ballad of Dependency
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  • First Threepenny Finale - The World is Mean
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  • Polly's Song
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  • Tango Ballad
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  • Ballad of the Easy Life
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  • Barbara Song
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  • Jealousy Duet
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  • Second Threepenny Finale - How to Survive
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  • Useless Song
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  • Solomon Song
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  • Call from the Grave
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  • Death Message
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  • Third Threepenny Finale - Mounted Messenger
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  • Ballad of Mack the Knife: Reprise
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  • Cast

    • Singing Roles

      • Street Singer (tenor or high baritone)
      • Macheath (high baritone)
      • Mr. J.J. Peachum (bass baritone)
      • Mrs. Peachum (contralto)
      • Polly Peachum (soprano)
      • Tiger Brown (baritone)
      • Lucy Brown (mezzo)
      • Jenny (mezzo)
      • Smith
      • Ensemble
    • Non-Singing Roles

      • Filch
      • The Rev. Kimball
      • The gang of thieves
      • Beggars, prostitutes, policemen
  • Instrumentation

    • Reed 1 (cl, alto sax)
    • Reed 2 (cl, ten. sax)
    • 2 Trumpets
    • Trombone
    • Banjo (gtr, Hawaiian gtr)
    • Timpani & percussion
    • Piano (harmonium and celesta)

Vocal selections
Warner Bros. SF0137

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