Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera

Kurt Weill The Threepenny Opera
The Threepenny Opera

Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera

Year of composition:
Play with music
based on the text of the Kurt Weill Edition
Kurt Weill
Edward Harsh; Stephen Hinton
Text author:
Joseph Rudyard Kipling; François Villon
Elisabeth Hauptmann; Karl Anton Klammer; Michael Feingold
Bertolt Brecht
Writer of pre-existing text:
John Gay
Piano reduction:
Kurt Weill; Norbert Gingold
Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum, head of a gang of beggars Mrs. Peachum Polly Peachum, their daughter Macheath, head of a gang of crooks Brown, Chief of London Police Lucy, his daughter Macheath's gang, street bandits: Walt Dreary, Crook Finger Jack, Matt of th
0 0 0 0 - 0 1 1 0 - sop.sax(Bb), alto sax(Eb), bar.sax(Eb), t.sax(Bb), bjo, harm, timp
Instrumentation details:
alto saxophone in Eb (+fl
tenor saxophone in Bb (+cl(Bb)
trumpet in C
trombone (+cb)
banjo (+band
hawaii guit
timpani (+perc)
harmonium (+pno
Table of contents:
1. Ouvertüre
Vorspiel: 2. Die Moritat von Mackie Messer
1. Akt, 1. Bild: 3. Morgenchoral des Peachum
4. Anstatt daß-Song
2. Bild: 5a. Hochzeitslied (unbegleitet)
5b. Hochzeitslied (unbegleitet)
6. Seeräuberjenny
A6. Seeräuberjenny (zusätzliche Strophe)
7. Kanonensong
5c. Hochzeitslied
8. Liebeslied
3. Bild: 9. Barbarasong
10. Erstes Dreigroschenfinale 10. Erstes Dreigroschenfinale
2. Akt, 4. Bild: 11. Melodram
A11. Pollys Lied
Ax1. Die Ballade von der sexuellen Hörigkeit
5. Bild: 12. Zuhälterballade
A12. Zuhälterballade (zusätzliche Strophe)
6. Bild: 13. Ballade vom angenehmen Leben
14. Eifersuchtsduett
A14. Eifersuchtsduett (zusätzliche Strophe)
15. Zweites Dreigroschenfinale
3. Akt, 7. Bild: 16a. Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens
16b. Reminiszenz
17. Salomonsong
A17. Salomonsong (zusätzliche Strophe)
8. Bild: 18a. Ruf aus der Gruft
18b. Ruf aus der Gruft (zweite Strophe)
19. Grabschrift
19a. Gang zum Galgen
20. Drittes Dreigroschenfinale
Appendices: A2a. Moritat als Motiv
A2b. Moritat als Walzer
A7a. Kanonensong für Orchester
A8a. Liebeslied für Orchester
A12a. Zuhälterballade für Orchester
Ax2. Arie der Lucy (gestrichen, nicht orchestriert)
based on the text of the critically edited full score, Kurt Weill Edition, Ser. I, Vol. 5
music: 55'
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The Threepenny Opera

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

The idea for the Dreigroschenoper [“Threepenny Opera”] came from Elisabeth Hauptmann, Bertolt Brecht’s widely-read employee, who had heard of the enormous success of the 1920 revival of John Gay’s old English Beggar’s Opera (music by John Christopher Pepusch) at London’s Lyric Theatre. She made a rough translation of Gay’s text for Brecht, and it became one of his many current projects.

Brecht was intrigued by the story, set in a milieu of beggars, whores and thieves; it seemed the perfect form in which to cast his criticism of the bourgeoisie. In adapting it, he transferred the action to the Victorian era of the 19th century and turned Gay’s “disguised critique of public disgrace” into a “public critique of disguised disgraces,” in Werner Hecht’s phrase. “It no longer aims at the cream of society; it strikes out at ‘normal bourgeois existence,’ as it were.”

Not a note had been written yet when Brecht was introduced to the idea; he made it a condition of accepting the commission from Josef Aufricht that Kurt Weill should compose the music. Time was scarce, so Brecht and Weill travelled with their wives in May 1928 to southern France, where they could work undisturbed.

The opera was finished in late July and rehearsals began early the next month for the premiere performance on 31 August at Berlin’s Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, where it was a colossal success. By contrast, the first American performance, on Broadway in 1933, was an outright failure, due to a poor translation and inadequate staging; it closed after 12 performances.

Lotte Lenya played Jenny in the 1956 revival, an adapted version by Marc Blitzstein at a Greenwich Village theatre, where it played for over 2000 performances. Today, the Dreigroschenoper is one of the most frequently produced musical dramas of the 20th century.

(Partially taken from Jürgen Schebera, Kurt Weill, Deutsche Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1990, pp. 90 et seq.)

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Next performances

02 Feb

The Threepenny Opera

Staatsoperette Dresden, Dresden (DE)

03 Feb

The Threepenny Opera

Staatsoperette Dresden, Dresden (DE)

05 Feb

The Threepenny Opera

Staatsoperette Dresden, Dresden (DE)

01 Mar

The Threepenny Opera

Staatstheater Darmstadt, Darmstadt (DE)

02 Mar

The Threepenny Opera

Anhaltisches Theater Dessau, Dessau (DE)

World première

Berlin (DE)
Theo Mackeben

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