NIU Opera Theater to perform scenes from related ‘Threepeeny Opera,’ ‘Beggar’s Opera’

For its opening program of the year, NIU Opera Theater presents scenes from two related works: “The Threepenny Opera” and “The Beggar’s Opera.”

Performances are at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, and 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, in the Recital Hall in the Music Building.

In 1728, London saw the premiere of “The Beggar’s Opera,” a ballad opera in which popular songs of the day were arranged by John Christopher Pepusch and fitted with new, satirical lyrics by John Gay. In 1928, composer Kurt Weill and librettist Bertolt Brecht adapted the earlier work to create their own “Threepenny Opera.” Finally, in 1948, the renowned English composer Benjamin Britten wrote his own arrangements of the music from the original 1728 opera.

The NIU Opera program features examples from all three versions. The basic plot and main characters remain the same in each.

Macheath, a notorious street thug, marries Polly Peachum, whose father runs a thriving trade by supervising the city’s beggars and panhandlers. Macheath is as incapable of fidelity as he is of honesty because he already has a wife as well as ongoing relationships with a number of prostitutes. Some of the characters acquire new names from Brecht: for example, Lucy Lockit, Macheath’s “other” wife and daughter of the jailer, become Lucy Brown, daughter of Macheath’s old friend and the chief of police, Tiger Brown.

Among the many numbers on the program is the well-known “Ballad of Mack the Knife,” which became a popular favorite following a successful 1954 Off-Broadway revival starring Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya.

This fall, the NIU Opera Theater ensemble includes 11 undergraduate and graduate voice students who receive musical and acting training while preparing a variety of vocal repertoire. The program is co-directed by stage director James Tucker and conductor Lucia Matos, with assistance from faculty pianist William Koehler and graduate accompanist Glenda Courtois-Garcia.

The concerts are free and open to the public. The NIU Music Building, 300 Lucinda Ave., is accessible to all. For more information, contact Lynn Slater in the School of Music at lslater@niu.edu or (815) 753-1546.

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