The Threepenny Opera

The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) is a revolutionary piece of musical theatre written by the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill in 1926.

It directly challenges the audience by breaching the "fourth wall" with what he called Verfremdung - alienation technique. For example, slogans are projected on the back wall and the characters sometimes carry picket signs, or stand at times with their backs to the audience. The play challenges conventional notions of property as well as theater. It asks the central rhetorical question, "Who is the bigger criminal: He who robs a bank or he who founds one?"

Despite the title and alienating techniques, it is as much a musical comedy as it is an opera. Except for the "Overture", the songs are relatively simple in form and the orchestra is a distinctly jazzy small combo. The score, by Kurt Weill, was deeply influenced by jazz. The opening song, "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", was adopted by Louis Armstring, and was later became a pop hit for Bobby Darin.

The opera is based on the English poet John Gay's 1728 operatic satire The Beggar's Opera which explains the setting of this quintessentially German work in London's Soho. The central character in both is Macheath, who - an elegant highwayman in Gay's work, is a vicious and violent anti-heroic criminal who sees himself as a businessman in the Brecht-Weill version.