Blurred Identities: The Threepenny Opera between Stage-Play, Musical and Film

John Gay’s popular 1728 play The Beggar’s Opera drew on the conventions of drama, ballads, and opera. Two centuries later, in Germany, his play was adapted into the new medium of film in the form of the Threepenny Opera. Judith Wiemers (Queen’s University Belfast) traces the shifting relations between theatre, music and film in her essay in the new issue of Postgraduate English.

This article focuses on the Threepenny Opera, a work of musical theatre that transcended genre boundaries throughout its performance history. In 1928, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill transformed the original English Beggar’s Opera into their famed stage-play with music, before German director G.W. Pabst adapted the material for the screen in 1931. This article explores the transition from stage to screen and the conflict that resulted between the authors and the film production company; it will interrogate how this dispute reflected the complex relationship between theatre and film, and analyse the extent to which Pabst’s interpretation is significant for the formation of the new genre of the German musical film.

This article is available to download free in issue 31 of our open access Postgraduate English journal. For more articles from this issue, and the complete archive going back 15 years, find the journal online.

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