Bad behavior abounds in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s operatic parody. Much of it came from the original work that was its basis—an eighteenth-century satire of polite British society by John Gay.
In both works, morality is upended in a world of prostitutes, corrupt police, and rakish social climbers. Brecht also put a modern touch into the mixture in several texts. In “Pirate Jenny,” a downtrodden hotel maid indulges in a violent Marxist revenge fantasy.
While the authors’ debt to Gay’s work was openly acknowledged, the German translator of a fifteenth-century poet named Francois Villon, accused Brecht of academic misbehavior by using his work without permission!