The Threepenny Opera
(English adaptation 1954)

Play with music.
Text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann,
after John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.
English adaptation by Marc Blitzstein.

Scott Merrill and Lotte Lenya
from the off-Broadway production in 1954.


Macheath (Mack the Knife), notorious bandit and womanizer, runs afoul of Jonathan Peachum when he marries Peachum's daughter Polly in a ceremony of doubtful legality. Peachum's resolve to have Mack sent to the gallows is complicated by the fact that Mack's old army buddy is the chief of police, Tiger Brown. Peachum and his wife commence a series of strategems to ensnare Mack: bribing prostitutes to turn him in, exercising their influence over the police, and ultimately threatening to ruin the coronation of Queen Victoria by having all the beggars in London (whom Peachum controls) line the parade route. Mack is imprisoned, escapes, and is imprisoned again. When his hour of execution arrives, however, a mounted messenger appears with the Queen's reprieve, which includes a baronetcy and an annual pension of 10,000 pounds.

Song list

Performance Information

Cast: Singing roles -- Street Singer (tenor or high baritone), Macheath (high baritone), Mr. J.J. Peachum (bass baritone), Mrs. Peachum (contralto), Polly Peachum (soprano), Tiger Brown (baritone), Lucy Brown (mezzo), Jenny (mezzo), Smith, ensemble.
Speaking roles -- Filch, the Rev. Kimball, the gang of thieves, beggars, prostitutes, policemen.
Orchestra: Reed 1 (cl, alto sax), Reed 2 (cl, ten. sax); 2 tpt, tbn; banjo (gtr, Hawaiian gtr,) timp & perc, piano (harmonium and celesta).
Duration: full evening, 55 minutes music

Principal productions


Polydor 820 260-2.
CD TER 1101
LP MGM SE 3121
Decca Broadway 012 159 463-2
Line Music (Cantus Classics) CACD 500991

Original Off-Broadway Cast
Scott Merrill
Martin Wolfson
Jo Sullivan
Charlotte Rae
Lotte Lenya
Samuel Matlowsky, cond.
Theatre de Lys, New-York
CD JAY 1244
CD TER 1227
Tom Hollander, Sharon Small, Tom Mannion, Beverley Klein,
Gary Yershon, cond.
(in English, lyrics translated by Jeremy Sams)

Also see Die Dreigroschenoper, for original version in German.

L'Opéra de 4 sous
(Adaptation Française de Jean Claude Hemmery)

Play with music.
Text by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann,
after John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.


Collection Jacques Canetti
CD 202 422-2
CD 589 706-2
Oswald D'Anndrea
Maurice Barrier
Maxime Casa
Sabine Lods
Albert Médina
Marie-Claude Mestral
Pierre Santini
Arlette Téphany
Rose Thiéry
  1. Complainte de Mackie
  2. Cantique matinal de peachum
  3. Au lieu de…
  4. Jenny des corsaires
  5. Le chant des canons
  6. Le chant de Barbara
  7. Chanson de Polly
  8. Ballade de l' esclavage des sens
  9. Ballade du souteneur
10. Ballade de la bonne vie
11. Duo de la jalousie
12. L' inanité de l' effort humain
13. Le sage Salomon
14. Epitre
15. Ballade de merci
16. Le final


Music from The Threepenny Opera
Arranged for saxophone quartet by John Harle
Arranged for saxophone quartet by Peter Vigh

  • Overture
  • Tango
  • Polly's Song
  • Ballad of the Good Life
  • Mack the Knife
  • Chorale
In search of freedom
MDG 9031999-6 (SACD)
Berlage Saxophone Quartet
Lars Niederstrasser, soprano saxophone
Peter Vigh, alto saxophone
Kirstin Niederstrasser, tenor saxophone
Eva van Grinsven, baritone saxophone
  • Canon Song
  • The ballad of the good life
  • Pimp's ballad (Tango)
  • Polly's Song