Die Dreigroschenoper

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Die Dreigroschenoper ("The threepenny opera") is a German political musical by Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)[1] and Kurt Weill (1900–1950)[2].

The original text

Adapted from John Gay's 18th-century English ballad opera[3], The Beggar's Opera, and incorporating four ballads by François Villon (1631-1663)[4], the play offers a Socialist critique of the capitalist world.

The text was written in collaboration with translator and lyricist Elisabeth Hauptmann (1897-1973)[5] (who is seldom credited), with music by Kurt Weill and set design by Caspar Neher. The first production took place on 31 August 1928 at Berlin's Theater am Schiffbauerdamm.

Translations and adaptations

Stage versions

The play was quickly translated into English and a number of other languages, and has been performed in numerous versions across the globe since its first performance.

Usually translated as The Threepenny Opera, the play has become one of the best known of Brecht's works. The translation is also referred to as The Thrupenny Opera, The Tupenny-Ha'penny Opera (e.g. by the BBC, that apparently wanted to emphasise the satire) or The Ha'penny Opera (see Jody Abrahams for instance).

Translated into Afrikaans as either Die Driestuiwer Opera ("the three halfpennies opera") or as the Die Drie-Pennie-Opera ("The threepenny opera"), the latter title used for an unpublished translation by Arnold Blumer () and Hennie Aucamp ().

Film versions

In 1931 by German director G. W. Pabst in German- and French-language versions simultaneously, in 1962 by Wolfgang Staudte , starring Curt Jürgens, Gert Fröbe, and Hildegard Knef (with scenes featuring Sammy Davis Jr. for its American release) and as Mack the Knife (1989)[6] by Menahem Golan, with Raul Julia as Macheath, Richard Harris as Peachum, Julie Walters as Mrs Peachum, Bill Nighy as Tiger Brown, Julia Migenes as Jenny, and Roger Daltrey as the Street Singer.

Performance history in South Africa

The musical has often been done in South Africa.

1938: Done in English at the Pioneer Theatre, Johannesburg, directed and designed by Leo Kerz.

1958: Presented by Taubie Kushlick, opening on 7 November(?).

1981: A Troupe Theatre Company production was presented at the Grahamstown Festival in July and at the Market Theatre in August and was directed by Richard Grant. In the cast were Hilary Jones, Bill Curry, Fiona Ramsay, Fred Abrahamse, Roz Monat, Sean Taylor, Chris Galloway, Neil McCarthy, Bryoni Mortimer and Penny Lorimer.

1987: An English translation (by Ralph Mannheim and John Willett) was performed in South Africa in September 1987. This was a student production.The director was Malcolm Purkey, designed by Paul Roumanoff and musical direction by Richard and Susan Cock. Lighting by Paul Abrams. Choreography: Esther Nasser. Cast included Kellam Beard, Richard Harrison, Megan Wilson, Daniella Roman, Zane Meas, Sarah Leftwich, Lisa Melman, Natalie Coyle, Gerard Bester, Brigid Schutz, Dominique Pascale, Chantal Nativel, Craig Freimond, Gladwin Marumo, Mandy Crock, Beverley Crook, Mickey Dube, Michelle Baker, Dorothy Brislin, Rosie Fiore, Mich'ele Levin, Heidi Britten, Michelle Kramer, Isabel Smook, Jennifer Yuill, Christine Comino, Lara Foot, Edward Jordan, Janice Kramer, Teresa Lintvelt, Beverley Shor, Kate Alexander, Bronwyn Keene-Young, Victor Maloka, Tale Motsepe and Gert Pretorius. The orchestra included Richard Cock, Susan Cock, Charles Wiffen, Caroline Hobbs, Liza Crouch, Alan Thompson, Gaby Gunders, Dain Peters, Reinet Nortj'e and Robert Evans. Stage director: Siphiwe Khumalo. Stage Manager: Gillian Glauber.


Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera (ed Stephen Hinton) CUP Archive, 1990[7]


Photograph held by NELM (Troupe Theatre Company production): [Collection: MARKET THEATRE]: 2004. 30. 5. 154.

Programme of play done in 1987 at Wits Theatre, The School of Dramatic Art.

Colin Naylor, 1990. Contemporary designers, p. 294.

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