History: Authors

Threepenny Opera: The Authors Speak

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill
Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill

Weill:

What we were aiming to create was the prototype of opera. The music no longer advances the plot. Rather, wherever the music occurs it interrupts the plot. This epic form of theater is the ideal form of musical theater.
               —article in the journal Anbruch, 1930

Kurt Weill

The Threepenny Opera needs a certain type of singing actors. They don't have to be trained singers but they have to be able to put over a song in the special singing style of Threepenny Opera.
               —letter to Clarence Muse, March 31, 1942

Have you never seen my orchestral score for Dreigroschenoper? Don't you know that this score has always been played exactly as I have written it? . . . Also: I am not sure at all if this score shouldn't be played here in its original form. It always makes a great success with Americans and the old German records are still selling by the hundreds here.
               —letter to Theodor W. Adorno, April 7, 1942

By showing with biting humor what the world would be like if it were inhabited by crooks and hypocrites, The Threepenny Opera does more good than all the dreams of noble souls.
               —letter to Lotte Lenya, May 11, 1945

By the time I was twenty-six I had operas in virtually every major company's repertoire in Germany. But I was playing to a limited public. My adaptation of The Threepenny Opera (on The Beggar's Opera theme) and its world success opened my eyes to the vast possibilities in an audience which did not seek opera as its daily fare.
               —"Broadway Opera," The Musical Digest, December 1946


Brecht:

I hope the 3-Penny Opera doesn't sound too provocative at a distance. She hasn't an ounce of falsehood in her, she's a good honest soul. Her success is most gratifying. It refutes the widespread view that the public is incapable of being satisfied-which comes as something of a disappointment to me.
               —letter to Erwin Piscator, September or October 1928

Bertolt Brecht

Just like two hundred years ago we have a social order in which virtually all levels, albeit in a wide variety of ways, pay respect to moral principles not by leading a moral life but by living off morality. Where its form is concerned, the Threepenny Opera represents a basic type of opera. It contains elements of opera and elements of the drama.
               —article in Augsburger Neueste Nachrichten, January 9, 1929

The Germans have few real repertoire pieces, i.e. plays which can more or less be done at any time, because they are so general in theme and give theaters an opportunity to display their arts at their most general. Faust is really the only one. . . . Among my plays I would think only the Threepenny Opera and the Chalk Circle have this character.
               —journal entry, November 9, 1949

When The Threepenny Opera was originally staged in Germany in 1928 it had strong political and aesthetic impact. Among its successful results were: 1. The fact that young proletarians suddenly came to the theatre, in some cases for the first time, and then quite often came back. 2. The fact that the top stratum of the bourgeoisie was made to laugh at its own absurdity. Having once laughed at certain attitudes, it would never again be possible for these particular representatives of the bourgeoisie to adopt them.
               —from a conversation with Giorgio Strehler, 1956


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