Chronology

Threepenny Opera chronology

Berlin 1928 poster
1728
Premiere in London of The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay and J.C. Pepusch–the work on which Threepenny is based.
1920
Revival of adapted version of Beggar’s Opera in London runs 1,463 performances.
March 1927
Bertolt Brecht writes the lyrics to “Pirate Jenny” and “Barbara-Song.”
July 1927
Premiere of the first collaboration of Kurt Weill and Brecht, the Mahagonny Songspiel
Fall 1927
Brecht’s assistant Elisabeth Hauptmann translates the libretto of Beggar’s Opera into German.
Spring 1928
Berlin producer Ernst Josef Aufricht asks Brecht for a play to open his new theater in the fall, and they agree that it will be Des Bettlers Oper (Beggar’s Opera).  Brecht asks Weill to compose a new score.
April 26, 1928
Weill and Brecht sign a contract with Felix Bloch Erben in Berlin to represent the stage rights.
Original Tango
May-June 1928
Weill and Brecht travel to the French Riviera in order to work on the new show without distractions.
August 10, 1928
Rehearsals begin at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm.
August 23, 1928
Weill completes his orchestral score. It does not include "Mack the Knife," which has not been written yet. (It is created only a day or two before the premiere.)
August 30, 1928
After a rehearsal period filled with conflict, defections of cast members, and endless cuts and changes, the dress rehearsal ends at 5:00 a.m. Most members of the cast and creative team believe the show will be a colossal failure.
August 31, 1928
World premiere at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. After a slow start, the audience catches fire. Despite somewhat mixed reviews, the show takes off and several new productions in Germany are arranged within days.
October 1928
Published copies of the libretto and vocal score, as well as several songs issued as sheet music, begin to be sold.
 
1929
Threepenny sees over forty new productions in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Finland, and the Soviet Union.
Pabst 1930
July-November 1930
Filming of G.W. Pabst's German and French versions takes place; Threepenny becomes one of the first musical films. Weill and Brecht file lawsuits against the production company over its handling of the script and music; both collect damages. The film is screened for the first time in February 1931.
1931
Brecht publishes revised version of Threepenny script.
1933
Weill and Brecht both flee Germany; the Nazi government bans further performances of Threepenny. By this time, Threepenny has been performed in well over 100 cities on three continents.
April 1933
Threepenny opens on Broadway for the first time in a translation by Jerrold Krimsky and Gifford Cochran. The run lasts only twelve performances and draws fire from nearly all the critics.
February 1935
The BBC broadcasts a complete performance of Threepenny; the performance is unanimously panned and Weill criticizes the performance strongly in a letter to the publisher of the music, Universal Edition.
1936 or 1937
First performance in Africa, in Johannesburg.
France 1937
1937
Threepenny produced in Paris starring Raymond Rouleau, Yvette Guilbert, Suzy Solidor, and Renée St. Cyr.
1938
Choreographer Antony Tudor creates his ballet, Judgment of Paris, with music from Threepenny.
Spring 1938
The Nazis stop playing songs from Threepenny at their exhibition of “Degenerate Art” in Düsseldorf, because too many people are enjoying listening to them.
Spring 1942
Brecht asks Weill to cooperate in a new adaptation of Threepenny to be performed by an all-black cast in California.  The parties are unable to agree to terms, and no performances take place.
August 1945
Threepenny performed for the first time in Germany since 1933.
January 1949
Brecht informs Weill that the script must be adapted because of post-war conditions in Germany.  A production in Munich reflects Brecht’s changes, to which Weill never consented.
April 3, 1950
Weill dies in New York, shortly after Marc Blitzstein begins writing his English version of Threepenny.
June 14, 1952
Tryout of Blitzstein’s version of Threepenny at Brandeis University, Boston.  Lotte Lenya and Jo Sullivan appear in the cast.
1954 NY marquee
March 10, 1954
Premiere of Blitzstein’s version at the Theater de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel Theatre) in Greenwich Village, New York City.  Lotte Lenya, Bea Arthur, Charlotte Rae, John Astin, Scott Merrill, and Jo Sullivan appear in the cast. After 96 performances, the show closes due to a scheduling conflict, but the original cast album has already been recorded and released, with remarkable sales.  Brooks Atkinson inaugurates the custom of ending his New York Times theater reviews with “Bring back the Threepenny Opera!”
September 20, 1955
Threepenny reopens at the Theater de Lys and runs until December 1961, a total of 2,611 consecutive performances.  This production firmly establishes Threepenny as a regular on American stages, as it is already in Germany, and serves as a springboard for innumerable pop recordings of “Mack the Knife.”
London program, 1956
Spring 1956
Influential productions of Threepenny in London (directed by Sam Wanamaker) and Milan (directed by Giorgio Strehler).
August 14, 1956
Brecht dies in Buckow, Germany.
1957
First performance in South America, in Buenos Aires.
January 1958
Lenya supervises and performs in a complete recording of Threepenny in German, released on Philips and Columbia. Wolfgang Neuss, Willy Trenk-Trebitsch, and Trude Hesterberg also appear in the cast.
April 12, 1960
The first production by Brecht’s acting company, the Berliner Ensemble, is directed by Erich Engel, who also directed the world premiere.
1961
Following performances in Sydney and Melbourne, Threepenny has been performed on every continent except Antarctica.
1963
Film directed by Wolfgang Staudte is released in German and English versions.  Curt Jürgens, Hildegard Knef, Gert Fröbe, Sammy Davis, Jr., and June Ritchie appear in the cast.
1976 NY poster
June 1976
A new English version by Ralph Manheim and John Willett debuts at the New York Shakespeare Festival, directed by Richard Foreman.  After a run at the Festival, the production moves to the Beaumont Theater until January 1977.  Raul Julia stars as Macheath.
March 1986
Tim Curry stars as Macheath at the National Theatre in London, with a new English translation by Robert David MacDonald.
October 1986
Giorgio Strehler directs another important production, this one in Paris.
1989
Release of a film version of Threepenny called Mack the Knife, starring Raul Julia, Richard Harris, and Julia Migenes.
November 1989
Opening of a Broadway production directed by John Dexter and conducted by Julius Rudel, with a new translation by Michael Feingold.  Despite the star power of Sting, Maureen McGovern, Alvin Epstein, and Kim Criswell, the problem-plagued production closes in less than two months.
1994
Donmar Warehouse, London, hosts a production of Threepenny with new English lyrics by Jeremy Sams.  JAY Records issues a cast recording.
1999 RCA CD cover
1999
RCA/BMG issues complete recording of Threepenny (in German) with Max Raabe, Nina Hagen, Sona MacDonald, and the Ensemble Modern conducted by HK Gruber.  The recording adheres closely to the new critical edition of Threepenny (see below).
2000
Publication of critical edition of the score and libretto of Threepenny as part of the Kurt Weill Edition, restoring the original 1928 version.  Edited by Stephen Hinton and Edward Harsh.
March 2006
The latest Broadway revival of Threepenny opens at Studio 54, produced by the Roundabout Theatre.  The star-studded cast includes Alan Cumming, Cyndi Lauper, Jim Dale, Nellie McKay, and Ana Gasteyer.  A new English translation by Wallace Shawn; directed by Scott Elliott.

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