Cover art: George Grosz

The Threepenny Opera

Bertolt Brecht, from a scenario by Elisabeth Hauptmann, music by Kurt Weill, translated from the German by Laurence Senelick
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The sheet music consists of a 135-page PDF of Kurt Weill's DIE DREIGROSCHENOPER original 1928 score.


THE THREEPENNY OPERA reimagines John Gay’s 18th-century ballad opera THE BEGGAR’S OPERA with a biting critique of capitalism and the bourgeoisie. The musical follows the antihero Macheath, or Mack the Knife, as he navigates the criminal underworld of Victorian London.

Production Info

Cast: 20 total (7 female, 13 male, flexible casting, doubling, bit parts)
Full Length Dark Comedy (about 120 minutes)
Minimal Set Requirements
Period Costumes

Press Quotes

“There is something subversive of establishment social order in the Macheath theme, something deeply rebellious, potentially anarchic. And to show such a figure sympathetically is indeed an act of provocation, at best a bit of harmless rabble-rousing, at worst a demagogic attempt actually to arouse and mobilize a ‘rabble’. Here is a villain-hero who gets away with murder to thunderous applause from the mob.” —Eric Bentley

“What I like about Brecht is this mad vision he has of other places and other times. He obviously had a real thing for Late-Victorian-Edwardian London. This mad kind of expressionist view of England and its society at the height of its empire is expressed through very poor people and the life of the deprived.” —Philip Prowse

“Not since the late nineteenth-century Italian opera had a composer and writer been capable of such a complex infusion of banal popular forms with complex emotions, bridging that cultural gap which exists between ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’ society.” —Rebecca Hilliker

“You can’t reach people by screaming or barking at them, you have to meet them eye to eye. People don’t want to be guilt-tripped. And I think that Brecht’s texts benefit from this kind of interpretation. He addresses the audience as equals, never in a condescending tone. Many of his songs begin with ‘Gentlemen’ and not ‘listen, you idiots’. I think you should apply that to your manner of singing, too.” —Adam Benzwi

About the Author


  • Bertolt BrechtBertolt Brecht

    Bertolt Brecht was born in February 10th, 1898 in Augsburg, Germany. He studied medicine in Munich (1917–21) before writing his first play, BAAL, in 1922. Other plays followed, including A MAN'S A MAN (1926), as well as a considerable body of poetry. With the composer Kurt Weill he wrote the satirical musicals THE THREEPRENNY OPERA (1928), which gained him a wide audience, and THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY (1930). In these years he became a Marxist and developed his theory of Epic Theatre. With the rise of the Nazis he went into exile, first in Scandinavia (1933–41), then in the US, where he wrote his major essays and the plays MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN (1941), THE LIFE OF GALILEO (1943), THE GOOD WOMAN OF SICHUAN (1943), and THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE (1948). Harassed for his politics, in 1949 he returned to Germany, where he established the Berliner Ensemble theatre troupe and staged his own plays, including THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI (1957). He died in August 14th, 1956.

  • Elisabeth HauptmannElisabeth Hauptmann

    Elisabeth Hauptmann was born on June 20th, 1897 in Peckelsheim, Westphalia, German Empire. She was a German writer who worked with fellow German playwright and director Bertolt Brecht. She purportedly wrote the majority of the text of THE THREEPENNY OPERA as well as providing a German translation of John Gay's THE BEGGAR'S OPERA, on which the THREEPENNY is based, as working material for Brecht and Kurt Weill, the composer. She was the main text author of the musical comedy HAPPY END (1929). She died on April 20th, 1973 in Berlin.

  • Kurt WeillKurt Weill

    Kurt Weill was born March 2nd, 1900, in Dessau, Germany. Son of a cantor, by age 15 he was working as a theatre accompanist. He studied composition briefly with Engelbert Humperdinck, and a conductor's post gave him wide experience. For a master class with Ferruccio Busoni (1920), he wrote his first symphony. He gained attention with his one-act opera DER PROTAGONIST (1925); its sparse and spiky style prefigured that of his greatest works. In 1927 he teamed with Bertolt Brecht to write THE THREEPENNY OPERA (1928) in a new "cabaret" style. The musical had enormous success in Berlin and elsewhere. In 1930 the two produced THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY. When the Nazis took power in 1933, he fled to Paris with his wife, Lotte Lenya, where he wrote THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS (1933). In 1935 the couple immigrated to the US; there he collaborated on musicals such as KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY (1938) and LOST IN THE STARS (1949). Two of his songs, the "Morität" ("Mack the Knife") from THREEPENNY OPERA and "September Song" from KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY, have remained especially popular. He died on April 3rd, 1950.

  • Laurence Senelick

    Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor Emeritus of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard. His expertise is in Russian theatre and drama, history of popular entertainment, gender and performance, history of directing, classical theory. Prof. Senelick is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, the most recent being, The Final Curtain: The Art of Dying on Stage; The Crooked Mirror: Plays of a Modernist Russian Cabaret; Soviet Theatre: A Documentary History; Stanislavsky: A Life in Letters; The American Stage: Writing on the American Theatre (Library of America) and A Historical Dictionary of Russian Theatre. Others books include: The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of the Plays in Performance and The Changing Room: Sex, Drag, and Theatre, as well as over a hundred articles in learned journals. He is a former Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin. Prof. Senelick was named Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Prof. Senelick has been named a Distinguished Scholar by both the American Society of Theatre Research and the Faculty Research Awards Council of Tufts University. He is the recipient of grants and awards from, among others, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has received the Barnard Hewitt Award of the American Society for Theatre Research for The Chekhov Theatre; the George Freedley Award of the Theatre Library Association for The Age and Stage of George L. Fox and The Changing Room; and the George Jean Nathan Award for best dramatic criticism of 2000. He holds the St. George medal of the Russian Ministry of Culture for services to Russian art and scholarship, and is honorary curator of Russian theatre at the Harvard Theatre Collection. He was also awarded a stipend from the TranScript/Mikhail Prokhorov Fund for Translation from the Russian. In 2008 he won the Graduate Teaching award (doctoral level) of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools and in 2012 the Betty Jean Jones Prize of American Theatre and Drama Society for Distinguished Teaching. He is a widely produced translator of plays from such authors as Chekhov and Feydeau, and director at Tufts of his own translations of The Inspector General, The Bakkhai, and Anything to Declare? He has acted and directed with such organizations as the Poets' Theatre, the Loeb Drama Center, the Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Baroque, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the revue The Proposition. He recently devised new courses on Cabaret, Theatre and Visual Studies, and Low Comedy and played Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape at the Balch Arena Theatre. His recipes appear in the Bon Appetit cookbooks.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 6/27/2024
Pages 102
ISBN 9798888560099

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:
The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
The Threepenny Opera is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC