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The Threepenny Opera

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  10,129 ratings  ·  204 reviews
The Threepenny Opera was Brecht's first and greatest commercial success, and it remains one of his best-loved and most-performed plays. Based on John Gay's eighteenth-century Beggar's Opera, the play is set in Victorian England's Soho but satirizes the bourgeois society of the Weimar Republic through its wry love story of Polly Peachum and "Mack the Knife" Macheath. With K ...more
Paperback, 124 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Arcade Publishing (first published 1928)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  10,129 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Steven Godin
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
First performed in Berlin 1928 this play had been initially received poorly, but went on to great success, by 1933, when Brecht was forced to leave Germany by the Nazi seizure of power, the play had been translated into 18 languages and performed more than 10,000 times on European stages, quite an accomplishment. The play offers a socialist view of Capitalism and takes place in London centering on one Jonathan Peachum who happens to be the boss of beggars. With the help of his wife he enrolls a ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: germany, 2018-read
With the "Threepenny Opera", Brecht unintentionally undermined his own poetic concept of the "epic theater" by having Kurt Weill compose some of the most stirring songs ever written in German. Brecht's theatrical concept was to turn away from illusion and immersion and to confront audiences with political realities and then discuss them dialectically in the course of the play - i.e., he wanted his audience to leave the theatre not entranced, but full of new awareness.

So while the texts of the "
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Or is it only those who have the money who can enter the land of milk and honey?

There were stirrings when I read in David Simon's Homicide about the West Baltimore murders which didn't merit a line in the newspaper. Homo Sacer, Agamben

Perhaps a phrase in the Sebald poem offered a subtle nudge to this reluctant reader. Perhaps it was an image of Ho Chi Minh in Fredrik Logevall's seminal Embers of War-- the thin, proud leader speaking to a congress of the French Communist Party, all of them white
Oct 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a hardcore boho 'Beat' kid, I was raised with the soundtrack of Kurt Weil/Bertolt Brecht's "Threepenny Opera." In fact, Lotte Lenya was probably the first singing voice I heard after my Mom - who used to sing to me when I was a little child.

Many years later I read the play/musical and was taken back at its cynical look in how society works. It's an amazing piece of theater and the music is and will always be superb.
Oct 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: theatre, classic
2/10. I understand that this is one of the Great Masters of Theatre. I learned in class that Brecht made a tremendous impact on theatre and started his own theatrical tradition. I also learned that the whole signs-device and didactical bits were very novel in his time. But it really, really disappointed all of my expectations. I even saw it live and it definitely was a flop. It did not deliver on any of the promised scandal or excitement. The musical pieces were random and did not add much. The ...more
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
English translation of a German play about bourgeois criminals, entertaining hybrids, middle management dressed in gutter rags. It was originally put on just before WWII in a Berlin dancing decadently on the edge of the abyss, and is in some ways apt for the current (Jan 2009) bankrupt America I live in today. I sincerely hope our current decline is not as brutal, nor our fall nearly as hard. Perhaps there is a prayer in reservation, some old medicine that might ward off the approaching reckonin ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
This play with the fun poems and songs and the colorful characters was really enjoyable to read even in translation. This play would be really enjoyable to catch in a theater. Written in 1920s Weimar Germany and set in Victorian England among demi-monde scenes of performers, low lifes and cut throats it is a really entertaining play with a leftish political message. A lot of fun.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I saw this, in Berlin I think, and I remember pieces from class, but I'm not sure I ever sat down and read it before.
Garrett Zecker
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
I have to say that this is one of the greatest things I have ever read. It is a play that is a fantastic reflection on the gutterly people that inhabit every city, and it shows a compassionate, entertaining reflection of them that criticizes the bourgeois and those in power. I think it also correctly showcases the true monster that is the human man. I think that, no matter what the man we are talking about, we all have the spirits of Mackie and Peachum buried somewhere in our hearts. This is a d ...more
Czarny Pies
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Czarny by: Mom and Dad who saw it on Broadway.
Shelves: german-lit
Take the first chance you can to attend a performance of this fabulous operetta with words by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weil. It is one of the greatest works written for the stage in the twentieth century. Performers of even the most modest talent always seem able to rise to the occasion and delight the audiences.

My mother who saw the great Jerry Orbach perform in it in 1955 during its intial Broadway run was still talking about it fifty years afterwards. For my part I like to tell people
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I read this I was already familiar with both Kurt Weill's music and the original Gay's Beggars' Opera that was inspiration for Brecht. The street life with characters like MacHeath and Jenny comes alive in Brecht's drama. Weimar culture was home to many artists who challenge both tradition and the conventional view of life. Inspired by their imagination and the political-economic upheaval that was taking place in this era artists like Brecht and Weill were changing the nature of theater and ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent piece of work! I saw a production many years ago and loved it. Brecht liked the story so much he also turned it into a novel (which I haven't yet read). I may watch the Pabst film version next. There are so many variations on the core material and so many alternative scenes and songs that it is something I am unlikely to grow weary of for a long time...

I love Brecht and it was a pleasure to finally get to grips with his most successful and famous play. The fact that it isn't actuall
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: player
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
"What's breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank? What's murdering a man compared with employing a man?"
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me about two days to finish Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, something I could have done even sooner had it been a pure dramatic piece. It’s not, as most will know — it’s a musical, and as such, it was necessary for me to listen to every song that I came across. I wanted a feel for Kurt Weill’s compositions and how he came to approach each number, and fortunately I found plenty to enjoy in that respect. From the opening, familiar strains of “Ballad of Mac the Knife” to the ebullien ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mack the Knife, as performed by Louis Armstrong.

I'd never heard of The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht, Lotte Lenya, or Sweet Lucy Brown, so I have to thank The Dog's Bollox for that. I was only passingly familiar with Louis Armstrong's Mack the Knife - which is to say, not familiar at all.

I talked to my dad about the song, and he said he only really listened to the Bobby Darin version, but didn't understand half the song.

Certainly the song makes more sense if you know who Macheath is.

Having r
Apr 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
There are so many things running through my mind now, as I am writing this review. I have never been so uncertain about a rating ever. In a moment, I want to give it 2 stars, then I wanna give it 5, then... ah, insane.

First of all, I have to admit that I have heard the music score a long time before actually reading the play. And I love it. The melodies, the rhythm, the lyrics... ah. And then, I have actually seen it on stage a bit later. And now the play. My own memories fight with each other.
Christian McKay
Jul 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: runner-ups
Yes, I only watched the movie, but the adapted play is out of print and it was way too good not to write a review on it.

I came across The Three Penny Opera in the nerdiest way possible. Yup, the comic route. The most recent volume of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has beggars and prostitutes belting out heart-wrenching opera of cutting morality and justified anger.

This isn't the first time Moore has led me to fine literature/stage work. After reading the first two volumes of Leag
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oy. I know. I basically stopped reading in November. That isn't the case though. I was reading a few other things but had tons of work to do (fucking end of semester!). Anyway I read this play quite quickly. I enjoyed it a lot. Our final full reading assignment for my arts and ideas course. It illustrates Weimar Berlin to a tee and also taught me a lot about the German anti-illusionist theater. I love the whole concept, I am even considering joining our German theater troupe next year so I can a ...more
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera is utterly brilliant, a brilliance you notice on the first page all the way to the last page. Its characters as whimsical as they are feel just as real as a person walking down the street. The Threepenny Opera has layer after layer of moral and political points of view that I could spend hours going into but its most prominent moral insight is that although Mackie the knife; thief, murder and crime lord, is eventually caught for his crimes. A character born ...more
Raymond Walker
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Known (i suppose) more for the creation of mack the knife (later to become a popular song) and brecht for his art; this has much more to offer than at first appears. It can be brutal and as damaging as life could be then but tis' not without its humanity from unlooked for sources. Its nature is shocked and dirty much as any dickens novel could be seen from the outside. Harshness then was just a fact of life and brecht saw it as such. An arbitary force from heaven sent to make us all need redempt ...more
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can you believe that I read a book that had absolutely nothing to do with food or the old "how to be a better woman for my man" books that I can't seem to stop laughing at (and giving my female friends "advice" from)!? I know that I can't!

I picked up this book at Small World Books in Rochester, NY while on a trip that I made out that way specifically for used book shopping. Admittedly, I only purchased it because I knew that two songstresses that I rather adore (Nellie McKay and Cyndi Lauper) ha
Greg Kerestan
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If "Oliver Twist" were reimagined by Tim Burton, you would get the savage satire of "The Threepenny Opera." Easily one of the greatest musicals ever written both onstage and as a piece of literature, Brecht and Weill's fierce, nihilistic humor depicts a world, only slightly exaggerated from our own, where everything from human suffering to the coronation of the Queen is monetized, rigged and profiteered. It's a man's world in which women learn to wield power by manipulating men, and where men fe ...more
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We did this as a school production once and I had to sing 'Mack the Knife' at the beginning of the play. Also was assigned to sing some other ballads throughout and sing the closing number, which was fun. All in all, one of my most favourite Brecht plays for the messages in it and the action-packed script. This isn't a compliment to The Threepenny Opera, but can I just express my intense love for Brecht's views on getting the audience to think critically about a play rather than just watch it fo ...more
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Came to this thru the cast album, and of course the iconic song.
I needed the story to fill in all the blanks and I am currently reading the material it was sourced off of: The Beggars Opera.
If you can get past some of the biblical preaching and cut to the chase, which to me is the baser impulses of man and the wry, sarcastic and nasty ass character of McHeath and how he gets it over on everyone, well its a hell of a story, Also the 1976 cast album with the wonderful Raul Julia as McHeath is tota
Nicholas During
Oct 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't really have anything to say about this book. Read it in anticipation of the Robert Wilson production a Berlin company at BAM, which I saw last night.

Pretty incredible play. In terms of putting on a production that is unlike almost anything else, this is it. Obviously Robert Wilson is a big star, and skilled at what he does, but the text itself has so much potential in it, and it's fun to think about after seeing it all the ways you could push it out.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
My favourite Brecht play of all time. But is it a good read? Not really because to state the obvious: this is not a "read", it's a play (or rather a musical) and plays are for playing out on stage. Although one of Brecht's special gifts was to write plays that are infinitely readable, this one's strength lies way more in the musical score by Weill (see "Mac the Knife"/ "Pirate Jenny") than the story itself, which is a potpourri of well known classics stewed up in true Brecht style.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brecht's complex critique of capitalism. Not unlike the Sopranos or The Wire, Brecht offers us a view of disenfranchised members of society who use the tools of capitalism to further their personal success (on the black market). The farce of it (or the tragedy?) is that capitalism is prima facie morally bankrupt, and that corporate entities are nothing but a conglomeration of Mack the Knives. Knaves all of them; exploiting one another to preserve their personal security.

Brian Saul
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite plays. I like this particular English translation. I believe it comes closest to what Brecht's original German script. There's a foreword by Lotte Lenya which sheds light onto the development of an idea into a world classic. Desmond Vesey adds notes,"tips for the actors" at the end of the book, and his explanations of some of the more esoteric points made in the play.
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Bertolt Brecht (born Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. A seminal theatre practitioner of the twentieth century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble—the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht a ...more

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“Denn die einen sind im Dunkeln
Und die anderen sind im Licht.
Und man sieht nur die im Lichte
Die im Dunkeln sieht man nicht.”
“يا حارس السجن ليه خايف من المسجون
هي الحيطان اللي بينا قش يا ملعون
و لا السلاسل ورق و لا السجين شمشون”
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