Meny Stäng

The Shark has Pretty Teeths: Bertolt Brechts The Threepenny opera reread

By David Prieth

Teckning av Bertolt Brecht av Yuma. CC
Teckning av Bertolt Brecht av Yuma. CC

Bertolt Brecht is still one of Germany’s best-known playwrights, poets, theatre directors and political voices of the 20th century. His influential style of writing, arranging and directing plays not only influenced contemporary and aspiring authors, but also directors, film makers and an astonishing number of musicians. With the development of his Epic theatre Brecht created a counterdraft to the traditional naturalistic approach represented by theatre directors such as Constantin Stanislavski, and also left behind the Aristotelian tradition of tragedy composition.

But although Brecht was not only known for writing plays, but also for theoretical essays, Lehrstücke, poetry and even screenplays, one of his best-known pieces of work remains the Threepenny Opera (Dreigroschenoper) which premiered on August 31st 1928. The play gained international attention, was translated into 18 languages and its songs were covered by international stars such as Nick Cave, Frank Sinatra, Sting and Robbie Williams, with some of them eventually becoming world hits (e.g. Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny). Consequently, the play has also been examined in terms of its connection to historical and political events, its production history and following adaptions. Yet, in order to comprehend what make