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Weill: Three-Penny Opera

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: a nasty note from the 18th century to the 20th …

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!

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