Montag, 25. Oktober 2021

Die Entstehungsgeschichte der Dreigroschenoper

Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) was far and away the greatest commercial success in either of their careers, enjoying thousands of performances in Germany alone. In many ways it was a revolutionary work, turning its back on traditional operatic practices and unabashedly reverting to the tradition of the number opera, as well as forming a viable synthesis between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" musical traditions. It has endured as Weill's most recognizable work, and the popularity of excerpted songs, such as "Mack the Knife" will ensure its reputation for years to come.               

 In 1920 a revival of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728) opened in London and proceeded to break the record for the longest-running production -- a record previously held by Gay's 1728 original (The Beggar's Opera was in fact so popular in the 1920s that it spawned a line of product tie-ins, including fans, figurines, and illustrations). Music publisher B. Schott Söhne tried to cash in on that show's popularity by contracting an adaptation with Paul Hindemith in 1925, but the composer refused, leaving the way clear for others to try. Weill and Brecht, who were in the midst of work on their Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), interrupted that project and set to work on their own adaptation, which became The Threepenny Opera.

The first production, in 1928, was fraught with difficulties. Days before the premier, revisions were still being made, cast members were being replaced and fighting amongst themselves, and the director was threatening to quit. The production was expected to fail dismally. Everyone involved was then caught off guard when, within a week of the premiere, "Threepenny fever" had spread across Germany, and theaters throughout the country were announcing productions of Die Dreigroschenoper. Noted musicologist and arch-modernist Theodore Adorno insisted that the public liked Threepenny only because they didn't understand it -- that Weill had embedded an ironic statement in a false gesture towards popular musical styles -- a gesture which the public had misinterpreted as sincere. This was nonsense to Weill, who made no apologies for the work's popularity.

Die Dreigroschenoper differed from the original Beggar's Opera in some important aspects. While 51 of the 69 songs in Gay's work are traceable to European folk or popular tunes, Weill composed an entirely original score (save the "Morgenchoral," which is retained from Gay's original). Also, while Gay's work contained pointed, and specific, social commentary, the 1928 Dreigroschenoper contained no such explicit references, though it often took a satirical or farcical tone. When Brecht released a "literary" version of the work in 1933, he awkwardly interpolated several dogmatic discourses, betraying his increasingly Marxist views, but this version has never gained the popularity of the original. In both, the gangster Macheath, facing execution, is suddenly granted a reprieve because, as a character in Gay's opera states, "an opera must end happily!"               

This is a collage about the making of the "Threepenny Opera" by Peter Eckhart Reichel, using snippets of original recordings.

Die Entstehungsgeschichte der Dreigroschenoper

4 Kommentare:

unsorted hat gesagt…

Thanks so much for this! I love your Brecht-related posts (Hanns Eisler, Ernst Busch, etc.).

zero hat gesagt…

Thanks, you are welcome! More of that stuff will follow...

Cri hat gesagt…

Hallo, ist das erneute Hochladen von Brecht / Eisler / Reichel möglich?

zero hat gesagt…

Of course! Best wishes!

Kommentar veröffentlichen