Sober “The Threepenny Opera” by Brecht (1932)

From the article by entertainment critic Joan Tomàs Rosich (Igualada, 1892 – Mexico, 1968) published ninety years ago today in ‘Mirador’ (8-XII-1932). Next year, the first Catalan translation, by Joan Oliver, of ‘L’opera de tres rals’, by Bertolt Brecht (Augsburg, 1898 – East Berlin, 1956) will be sixty. In April 1984 it was performed at the Romea Theater directed by Mario Gas.

When, in 1922, he arrived in Berlin, Berthold Brecht -Bert Brecht- was twenty-four years old. He was a vagabond poet, in every sense of the word. He had no other literary baggage than a prize he had just won, a bunch of poems of revolt and a play that that same year was to make his way among the young people who, like him, wanted to feel caressed by glory : Drums in the night. […] In 1929 he released, under the title of Die Dreigroschenoper, an arranged version of The Beggar’s Opera. The same as for Marlowe’s Eduard II, Brecht felt an irresistible attraction for this work; it offered him occasion, supporting the effects and transforming Gay’s indulgent irony into requisition, to publicly renounce a handful of things and institutions more respected than respectable. Pabst, in his film, has quite attenuated the exaltations of Brecht. Weill, a talented musician whose temperament and ideas are, if not the same as Brecht’s, compose the score for Die Dreigroschenoper. “I have collected the notes – said Weill – of the organs in the street, just as if I were collecting rubbish; I write music for the poor; Wagner has already written for the rich”. Die Dreigroschenoper met the public’s favor better than any of Brecht’s previous productions. It was also, in any case, very controversial. Alfred Kerr, in particular, threw himself into it like a wolf, accusing Brecht of plagiarism for having introduced some Villon ballads into the text, and lamenting the sympathy the spectators felt for Mackie, the triumphant bandit. But Kerr’s cries and lamentations served only as a complaint. At the end of that same year, Brecht and Weill, spurred on by the success of Die Dreigroschenoper, premiered a new comedy: Happy End, in the preliminary manifesto of which they proclaimed that it is more criminal to found a bank than to steal, and where they saw, among other amusing details, Chicago gangsters converted by a girlfriend from the Salvation Army, girls dressed as angels singing Hosanna to St. Rockefeller and St. Ford and cathedral organs with a sign that read : “We lubricate them with Standard Oil lubricants”. There was a low down. […] The last work by Brecht that I have heard of was premiered in Munich at the end of last year, with music, always by Kurt Weill. It is a “Japanese tale”, entitled The man who says yes to everything. The trend is more revolutionary than ever. It is about a poor devil who is thrown by his companions to a precipice because they see him as weak to continue the path and would be a nuisance to them. Brecht wants to mean with this work that for collective freedom we must not look very narrowly in what we do. He understands, like Gay, that life is a joke, but he takes it in stride. Oh! and smoking two-frame cigars.

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