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16 JUN 2015

published in: Drama

Martin Lowe (Photo: Clemens Räthel)
Almost 90 years after the world premiere of the Dreigroschenoper, a new chapter in the history of the “Beggar’s Opera” thus begins, after the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music in New York authorized the Salzburg Festival to commission a one-time adaptation of the work. It is also the first time since 1996 that the Felsenreitschule hosts a drama performance.
The Beggar's Opera of 1728 made theatrical history in London, just as the Threepenny Opera of 1928 did in Berlin. By January 1929, no less than 19 German theatres were performing the piece, in addition to theatres in Prague, Vienna and Budapest. By the end of the 1928/29 season, 4200 performances had been counted. By January 1933, the Dreigroschenoper, which had been translated into several languages, had been performed more than 10,000 times throughout Europe. Kurt Weill's music was sensationally successful in 1930s Berlin and on Broadway during the 1940s, and has had a lasting influence on many musicians to this day.
Bertolt Brecht, however, was not happy with the reasons for this success, which he expressed in the following self-interview in 1933:

What do you consider the reasons for the Threepenny Opera's success?
"I fear it is all those elements which did not matter to me: the romantic plot, the love story, the musical element. When the Threepenny Opera had been successful, it was turned into a film. For the film, they used everything I had made fun of in the play, the romanticism, the sentimentality etc, and left out the sarcasm. That made its success even greater."

And what would have mattered to you?
"Social criticism. I had tried to show that the ideas and feelings of street bandits have an awful lot in common with the ideas and feelings of respectable citizens."

After the world premiere on August 31, 1928, all of Germany fell into a "Threepenny fever". Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill had hit a nerve of their times with their text and musical arrangements. Kurt Weill's ballads, for example Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, Kanonen-Song and Barbara-Song as well as Das Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens, became world hits.
Julian Crouch and Sven-Eric Bechtolf will direct Mackie Messer – A Salzburg Threepenny Opera together at the Felsenreitschule.
The premiere takes place on August 11, 2015, followed by seven further performances until August 27.