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-> ''You're about to hear an opera for beggars. And because this opera was created so glamorously, the way only beggars can dream something up, and because it should still be so cheap that only beggars would pay for it, it's called ''The Threepenny Opera''.''

''Die Dreigroschenoper'' is Creator/BertoltBrecht and Music/KurtWeill's DarkerAndEdgier adaptation of John Gay's ''Theatre/TheBeggarsOpera''. Despite the title, [[NonindicativeName it's a musical]].

The play centers around the marriage of Polly Peachum (daughter of "Beggar King" Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum) to notorious gangster and pimp Macheath (better known as Mack the Knife) who is getting old and wants respectability, titles and retirement. Mack has completely outsourced his crimes to his gang, and lives on his reputation. He's best friends with his old army buddy Jack "Tiger" Brown, the London chief of police, whose daughter Lucy he's dating on the side. He's also chummy with his former live-in girlfriend Spelunken-Jenny, a whore he still visits on Thursdays. And he's got great plans: instead of robbing banks and stabbing men, he now wants to ''found'' a bank and ''hire'' men. Mack is ready to climb out of the criminal slums and into criminal nobility. And Polly is just the right kind of wife to have by his side for it. The only problem in his plan is Jonathan Peachum, who not only hates Macheath, but will do ''anything'' to get his daughter back -- after all, she's valuable goods, and he's invested a lot of time and money in her proper upbringing. Peachum devises a plan to blackmail Tiger Brown and convince him to arrest Macheath. Since the Queen's coronation is due in a few days, Brown has his hands full trying to keep the beggars off the streets. Which Peachum decides to use to his advantage in blackmailing Brown: imagine thousands of beggars, crawling out of the gutters, crowding around the Queen. Mack tries to flee, but can't shake his Thursday habit at Jenny's brothel and is consequently arrested by a reluctant Brown. And when Lucy Brown shows up, apparently married to Macheath and pretending to be pregnant, Polly starts to realize that the marriage was a huge mistake.

Brecht's production was intended to be an ironic {{Deconstruction}} of familiar European dramatic conventions and he made several important dramatic innovations, illustrating his concept of "epic theater", namely protagonists the audiences do not easily identify with, action taking place on multiple levels and social and political commentary used for dramatic effect. The music by Kurt Weill has endured in many cover versions recorded in Germany and in English (in a series of translations). The songs frequently covered include "Mack the Knife", "Pirate Jenny", "What Keeps Mankind Alive" which have seen versions by Music/BobbyDarin, Music/FrankSinatra, Music/NinaSimone, Music/NickCave, Music/TomWaits among others.

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!! Notable adaptations and re-interpretations include:
* ''Die Dreigroschenoper'' (1931): There have been many movie adaptations. This is the first one and it actually involved Brecht, Weill and Lenya directed by G. W. Pabst (of ''Film/PandorasBox'' fame). It is notable for featuring most of the cast from the original production: Ernst Busch as the Street-Singer/Narrator, Carola Neher as Polly Peachum, Fritz Rasp as Beggar King Peachum and Lotte Lenya as Jenny (who sings "Seerauben Jenny). Currently available on Creator/TheCriterionCollection (alongside a French version also directed by Pabst).
* ''Literature/TheThreepennyNovel'' (1934): Brecht went on to write this scathingly satirical novel, in which Macheath's popularity [[GodwinsLaw is compared to that of Hitler]] and Polly is madly in love with the idea of a suave, gorgeous Macheath (and sorely disappointed when he turns out to be an old bald bastard).
* [[https://www.amazon.com/Threepenny-Opera-1954-Blitzstein-Adaptation/dp/B00004X09T The 1956 Off-Broadway production]] directed by Marc Blitzstein, for which Lotte Lenya won a Tony Award for her role as Jenny. This version featured many of the common {{Bowdlerization}} of Brecht's original, but was nonetheless successful commercially and highly influential in its own right. The production featured Edward Asner (as Mr Peachum), Charlotte Rae as Mrs Peachum, Bea Arthur (as Lucy), Jerry Orbach (as PC Smith, the Street Singer and Mack), John Astin (as Readymoney Matt/Matt of the Mint) and Jerry Stiller (as Crookfinger Jake) as members of the cast during its run.
* ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eRI-a9Cv1M Ópera do Malandro]]'' by Chico Buarque.
* ''Imminent, Indeed (or Polly Peachum's Peculiar Penchant for Plosives)'' by Bryn Manion.
* ''Film/{{Dogville}}'', an even DarkerAndEdgier re-telling of "Music/PirateJenny", directly quoting from it.
* The third part of Creator/AlanMoore and Kevin O'Neill's ''ComicBook/TheLeagueOfExtraordinaryGentlemen'' (''Century'') adopts the structure and approach of Brecht and Weill's production and features many in-panel musical numbers and whole plots based on ''What Keeps Mankind Alive, Pirate Jenny, Mack the Knife, The Ballad of Immoral Earnings, Canon Song''.
* ''The Twopenny Opera (It's One Cheaper)'', a ConceptAlbum by Music/TheTigerLillies.
* For a complete German recording of ''all'' of the play's songs, the 1999 all-star [[http://www.amazon.com/Kurt-Weill-Threepenny-Opera/dp/B00001R3MQ Berlin performance]] with Music/NinaHagen is a great place to start.
* Music/MarianneFaithfull's ''20th Century Blues'' features versions of a few Brecht-Weill songs (translated by Irish Playwright Frank [=McGuinness=] based on an earlier production). Features ''Mack the Knife'' and ''Pirate Jenny'' alongside lesser known Brecht tunes like ''Surabaya Johnny'' and ''The Ballad of the Soldier's Wife''.

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!! ''The Threepenny Opera'' contains examples of:

* AdaptationExpansion: In Pabst's film, the Beggar's March which Peachum threatens and blackmails Brown with, actually does go ahead and interfere with Queen Victoria's parade. However, it loses any effect it might have to upset the order once Macheath and the Beggar King resolve their differences. The final shot, shows the beggars sullenly marching in the darkness, their exploitation continuing unchanged.
* AffablyEvil: Macheath's gang like to see themselves as this, but it's only an illusion to their depravity.
* TheAlcoholic: Mrs. Peachum.
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: Bobby Darrin's cover of Mack the Knife projects this. Within the play, it's only true of Polly Peachum, the other girls were prostitutes who presumably didn't have a choice in the matter. In her "Barbara Song", Polly Peachum describes how she virtuously turned down all the respectable men who asked for her maidenhead...until a man showed up who was neither respectable nor bothered asking....
* AnachronismStew: The story nominally takes place in 1904. While the "Cannon Song" and its discussion of colonial warfare would seem to place the story in the mid to late 1800s, the coronation the play is centered around is that of Queen Victoria, thus implying an earlier date. Not to mention that the play its adapted from was written and set in the 1700s. Oh, and Macheath tends to dress as a RoaringTwenties gangster. The Donmar Warehouse production with Tom Hollander had something of a SettingUpdate with references to onion bhajis and Marks and Spencers in the lyrics.
* BawdySong: "Pirate Jenny" and to a lesser extent "Barbara Song", and "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" are all in a genre of "cabaret music" sung by women at those clubs; for a different kind of BawdySong, the "Cannon Song" is based on rousing soldier music in the manner of Kipling's "Barrack-Room Ballads" (Brecht was a Kipling fan), and is intended as a {{deconstruction}} of them.
* BettyAndVeronica: Polly and Lucy. Of course, calling Mackie an Archie is a stretch, since he pretty much uses both of them for his own purposes and ends.
* BreakoutPopHit: "Pirate Jenny", "What Keeps Mankind Alive", "Mack the Knife". No matter the version, Weill's music and Brecht's distinctly ironic lyrics have an ongoing afterlife in popular culture.
* {{Bowdlerization}}: English language adaptations of Brecht's original play, inspired by its commercial success, adapted it to the Anglo-American sensibilities of its time, which on account of PopculturalOsmosis has meant that the earlier versions, made in a more timid and censorious times, has endured in cultural memory:
** Most adaptions do the production like a Broadway Musical, make the characters LighterAndSofter, remove the political views, and clean up all the song lyrics, in other words make it into a remake of the original ''The Beggar's Opera'' rather than the DarkerAndEdgier version it was originally supposed to be.
** The main things that are softened is the Mack the Knife song, his general misogyny, DomesticAbuse of women, and likewise sentimentalize some of the interactions between Mack and Polly which in the play is meant to be ironic (in the German sense[[note]]German intellectuals meant irony as a mode of representation. The irony of Brecht is that if an anti-capitalist play with unsympathetic characters, lowlifes and other scum has to be made into an off-key musical, than things are already pretty bad in society[[/note]]).
* CatFight: Between Polly and Lucy in the "Jealousy Duet". Mostly musical in the stage directions, but tends to be "spiced up" in productions, especially the 1960s movie version.
* ConspicuousGloves: As detailed in the opening song "Moritat" ([[CoveredUp better known]] as "Mack the Knife"), the gangster Macheath is identifiable by his signature kid gloves. Besides being stylish they help him avoid blood stains.
* TheCoverChangesTheMeaning:
** Bobby Darin's famous version of "Mack the Knife" is faithful in the first and second verses (which describes Mack as a rogue connected to mysterious murders, UndisclosedFunds, and suspicious sightings) but the following verses can be described either as propaganda or RomanticizedAbuse when compared to the original, since it makes Mack the Knife's victims sound like willing conquests to a rake.
** In the original production, the song known as PirateJenny was to be sung by Polly and intended to be an ImagineSpot about how much she hates her family and dreams of escape. Later productions, and the 1931 Film version, gave it to Lotte Lenya's Jenny. By merely changing the character and singer, and especially Lenya's performance, the song acquired its now familiar meaning of an oppressed woman's fantasy ImagineSpot of revolutionary justice and retribution.
* DarkerAndEdgier: Like nearly all Brecht productions, it borrows from earlier plays, namely John Gay's ''The Beggar's Opera'', practically all the characters, the love triangle, the FriendlyEnemy cop is there and even the DeusExMachina ending. Only differences is that Mackie Messer is not the LoveableRogue that the original Macheath is, but a brutal pimp, rapist and child-murderer. The setting-update puts it in context of British Imperialism (via references to Kipling, one of Brecht's favorite writers) and the overall setting is much seedier.
* DeadpanSnarker: The narration of the Threepenny Novel.
* {{Deconstruction}}: Brecht's Alienation Effect was all about creating this sensibility and cultivating it among his audience:
** The music and lyrics by Weill and Brecht mirrors, intentionally, common folk music and music hall style songs and ballads but attacks the entire genre by exposing it as best a coping mechanism for living with poverty, injustice, abuse and other crimes. Where such folk music often by means of euphemism, suggestion and implication commented on reigning issues of the day, Brecht and Weill's music directly highlights it and brings it to the forefront and only makes the characters sentimentalism about poverty even more absurd. This is made obvious in "What Keeps Mankind Alive" which is all about people ignoring or forgetting the ugliness in their own lives and society, becoming a StepfordSmiler and accepting the façade of a CrapsaccharineWorld.
** Likewise, certain common archetypes to the crime genre and the Victorian era, are directly attacked and exposed. Brecht's Mack the Knife is not a LoveableRogue but other characters project that archetype on to him and he uses that sentiment to better exploit his friends, lovers and prostitutes. Unlike John Gay's original work, where Macheath is rakish and funny, Brecht's Mackie is a violent pimp, and the play reminds the audience that Mack and Tiger Brown committed many atrocities and war crimes in India as part of the colonial service, which is somehow more legal and acceptable than his crimes in London.
* DeusExMachina: At the very end, [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere out of nowhere]], Macheath is saved from the gallows with the information that he's not only pardoned but won a peerage. This was a deliberate parody showing how criminals are spared their fate and receive unearned rewards in the manner of heroes in the old trope.
* DoNotDoThisCoolThing: [[invoked]] Although the play was intended as a vicious attack on capitalism, it is quite popular with non-communists. Though Brecht intended [[FridgeLogic it for a non-communist audience in any case, since in theory, communists don't need to see a play about how capitalism works]]. More generally, people tended to uncritically glorify Macheath as an AntiHero by neglecting the strong women characters in the play who he subjects to all kinds of abuse and exploitation.
* DomesticAbuse: All the prostitutes are kept in line by this, either from their clients or Mackie.
* EverythingsEvenWorseWithSharks The song compares Mackie to the Shark with Mackie being EvilerThanThou:
-->Oh the poor shark \\
Yes, the sweet shark \\
It has big teeth, buried deep. \\
Then there's Macheath \\
with his big knife \\
Hidden in his sleeve.
* EvilVersusEvil: Macheath versus Peachum; the former tends to get sympathy mostly because of being more charismatic.
* {{Expy}}: Jenny from ''Theatre/TheRiseAndFallOfTheCityOfMahagonny'' would even be considered a straight-up transplant of Spelunken-Jenny, if the stories took place in the same universe. Both parts were originated by Miss Lotte Lenya.
* FanDisservice: The notorious lyric describing Jenny Towler's fate ("There they found her/Knife in Breast") in "Mack the Knife" is meant to invoke this. One of the many {{Bowdlerization}} subjected to it in English translations to make it a Pop Hit.
* FullCircleRevolution: The DarkReprise added by Brecht to the 1931 film version which plays over the failed Beggar's March reflects this:
--> ''There are some who are in darkness\\
And the others are in light\\
And you see the ones in brightness\\
Those in darkness drop from sight."
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: In the 1931 film, UsefulNotes/QueenVictoria actually does show up in the Beggars Protest March during her coronation parade. She is shown quite unsympathetically needless to say.
* HoYay: Mack and Brown. Brecht has admitted that it's on purpose: Brown's love for Macheath is what keeps him going, but it's damaging to his job as a keeper of the peace. [[invoked]]
* HumansAreBastards: "What Keeps Mankind Alive"
-->What keeps mankind alive? The fact that millions \\
are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed. \\
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance \\
at keeping its humanity repressed. \\
For once, you must try not to shirk the facts. \\
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts.
* ImagineSpot: What "Pirate Jenny" is in the Brecht-Weill original, but it paints such a vivid image that its easy to mistake it as an actual call for revolution and upliftment.
* JoinTheArmyTheySaid: "The Cannon Song" evokes this. John, Jim and George are three friends who sign up for the CallToAdventure. They end up committing atrocities against people in colonial outposts and eventually end up as ShellShockedVeteran, disgraced for being deserters or in the case of George, shot for looting:
--> '''Macheath''':''[[IgnoredEpiphany But young men's blood goes on being red]]''\\
'''Tiger Brown''': ''And the army goes ahead recruiting.''
* KarmaHoudini: Macheath. As mentioned in the summary above, this is a major plot point.
* KavorkaMan: Macheath is an unattractive cutthroat, physically abusive and, as Brecht described him, "bald, old, humorless, with a face like a turnip". Still, women seem to throw themselves at him. Modern ensembles (including Brecht's own ensemble in Berlin) instead cast young and attractive actors for the part.
* KingOfTheHomeless: A brutal deconstruction. Macheath and Peachum function very much like capitalists who exploit prostitutes and beggars by overworking them and exploiting them. Both of them have connections with the law and end up assimilating into bourgeois society.
* KnifeNut: Macheath
* LighterAndSofter: English translations of the ''Moritat'' tend to erase the verses that describe Mack the Knife's more heinous crimes, like child rape and an arson that killed seven children, and even gloss over the celebration of cannibalism in The Canon Song.
* LostInTranslation: In the case of two characters, Brecht's naming of characters was based on misunderstandings of Gay's topical references/slang. In the original, one of Macheath's gang was called "Matt of the Mint", in reference to a [[TheCityNarrows sketchy area]] in London that [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_of_the_Mint was located near what used to be a royal mint and functioned as a lawless "sanctuary area" for criminals]]. In Brecht's version, only the coinage implication carried through, and the character is called "Matthew Money". Similarly, Jenny Diver in Gay's play was named after an [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenny_Diver actual person who was a notorious pickpocket]] (with a probable bawdy pun with both the real person and fictional character). Brecht understood dive in the sense of "seedy location" and to this end, in some translations Brecht's character is translated as "Low-Dive Jenny".
* MoodWhiplash: Brecht's alienation-effect was all about creating this effect. The lyrics and the style of music tend to be so-off. Ballad of Mack the Knife is sung by a jolly street-singer who is totally nonchalant about Macheath's crimes. The most shocking is "The Ballad of Immoral Earnings" a jaunty romantic [[AddedAlliterativeAppeal song sung in a swooning style]] that talks about the whorehouse that featured DomesticAbuse and a disgusting back-alley abortion described in visceral detail.
* MurderBallad: "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", obviously (''Moritat'' is the German word for a Murder Ballad).
* NoHistoricalFiguresWereHarmed: Not within the play, but in a novel adaptation, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin The Threepenny Novel]], Macheath is identified with UsefulNotes/JackTheRipper. As a ShoutOut, Macheath also appears in ''Film/TheLeagueOfExtraordinaryGentlemen'', and is presented either as a JackTheRipoff, or maybe the ''actual'' Jack the Ripper.
* NietzscheWannabe: Mr. Peachum. It's not that he's a miser -- he simply doesn't believe that money or ''anything'' can save him, so he may as well make the best of what little money he's got. It's not that he doesn't like his daughter -- it's just that his opinion of her, just like his opinion on the rest of humanity, is "already at its lowest possible point". And it's not that he particularly likes the Bible -- he just figures he should have it in front of him to remind him of how rotten the world's Christians are.
* NostalgiaFilter: The song "The Ballad of Immoral Earnings" is deliberately sung and set to tune to evoke an Arcadian setting of Good Times. The lyrics nastily subvert it:
--> And when a client came I'd climb out of our bed\\
And treat him nice, and go and have a drink instead.\\
When he paid up I would address him: "Sir\\
Come any time you feel you fancy her."\\
That time's gone past, but what would I not give\\
To see that whorehouse where we used to live?
* PirateGirl: Becoming this is part of Jenny's fantasies of revenge on society for her miserable life, about which she sings the song [[Music/PirateJenny "Seeräuber-Jenny"]].
* TheQueensLatin: While productions in translation tend to give the rest of the cast a Cockney accent, which makes sense given the setting, Peachum and sometimes the rest of his family often gets a Scottish accent. This is because one historical stereotype of Scots is that they are Bible-beating misers, which describes the common interpretation of Peachum perfectly.
* SinisterTangoMusic: Macheath and Jenny have a "romantic" tango song about their past relationship when he used to pimp her, which is mildly sinister in the traditional but [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku8RVgRejMs bowdlerised Blitzstein English translation]]. The German original and later more accurate translations go even further by referring to violent abuse and back-street abortion. The differing titles reflect this. In German it is called "Zuhalterballade" (Pimp's Ballad) and in English it is called "The Ballad of Immoral Earnings" which is apt for the setting, since it is a classically Victorian euphemism.
* SociopathicSoldier: Macheath and Tiger Brown as shown in the "Cannon Song"
--> And when it rained / and we met a new race / a brown one or a pale one / [[ImAHumanitarian maybe we'd use them to make our steak tartare]]!
* SpiritualSuccessor: ''Theatre/TheRiseAndFallOfTheCityOfMahagonny''.
* StoryboardingTheApocalypse: Pirate Jenny promises a bloody naval assault on the London Docks, imprisonment by pirates and beheadings.
* StylisticSuck: This was a device deliberately used in a lot of Brecht's work to achieve the proper "alienating" effect on the audience, and among other things, he wanted the music discordant and the cast to sing off-key.
* TenorBoy: Macheath is sometimes played like this ironically, and many performances have him singing the "Epitaph" in a sincere tenor, just to accentuate what a two-faced bastard he is.
* VillainProtagonist: Everyone but Polly, whom even Brecht the arch-pessimist stressed to be a "virtuous and agreeable girl" in his notes on playing the parts.
* WeirdTradeUnion: Peachum's guild of beggars
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