Jay Hunter Morris
Narrator / Street Singer
Jay Hunter Morris
Narrator / Street Singer
By Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann
Premiere Date: August 31, 1928: Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin
You are about to see an opera for beggars. Since this opera was conceived with a splendor only a beggar could imagine, and since it had to be so cheap even a beggar could afford it, it is called The Threepenny Opera.
The Atlanta Opera’s version is funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.
An army of puppets created for this production by the Center for Puppetry Arts are led by their live doppelgängers. “Mack the Knife,” “Pirate Jenny” and ballads for broken relationships, struggle, love, life and death are the heart of the production.
Happy endings are the rule, but the ones who walk in shadow know the score.
Performed in English with English supertitles
Set to a libretto by Bertolt Brecht, it was The Threepenny Opera that established Kurt Weill as one of the most successful composers of Weimar Germany. Combining cynicism and hard truths with deceptively tuneful, accessible music – including the now-beloved standards “Pirate Jenny” and “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” – the opera offers a biting satire of the establishment.
Puppets will play the prostitutes, beggars, gangsters, and constables and will be designed by Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts‘ Resident Puppet Builder Jason Hines. Emmy-nominated Artistic Director of the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jon Ludwig will serve as puppet collaborator.
Forging an aesthetic link with the puppets that also offers additional virus protection, the singers will at times wear giant heads created by Costume Designer Erik Teague.
Costume sketches by Erik Teague
A prostitute and Macheath’s former lover
Controller of all the beggars in London; Macheath’s nemesis
Peachum’s wife; helps him run the business
The Peachum’s daughter
London’s most notorious criminal
Your safety is our top priority
This outdoor experience was designed in consultation with leading experts in the fields of epidemiology, public health, workplace/industrial hygiene, and infectious diseases.
The Atlanta Opera will continue to monitor government policy changes, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, government mandates, and public health notices and make changes as necessary or appropriate to ensure the safety of patrons, artists, and staff.
Tickets are sold as “pods” that can accommodate either two or four people in one party. All pods will be safely distanced from each other under the Big Tent.
Stanchions, signage, and barriers will be used throughout the venue to ensure social distancing is maintained for all audience members.
In order to limit exposure, all performances are only 65 minutes in length.
Patrons will be required to take a Health Screening Questionnaire either before arriving or on-site. Temperature checks will also be conducted prior to entry.
Ticket scanning, temperature checks, and safety screenings will be contactless and staff will be equipped with masks, face shields, and gloves to keep you safe.
Hand washing and sanitizing stations will be dispersed throughout the outdoor venue and personal hand sanitizers will be available at each pod. Seats, tables, bathrooms, and every check-in station will be fully sanitized prior to and following each performance.
We’re here to help
We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions that will help you navigate through this new experience. If you don’t see an answer to your question, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to assist you!
The Big Tent at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
All performances will be presented in a large, ventilated, open-sided tent. The tent is located in the parking lot of Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Kurt Weill was born on March 2, 1900 in Dessau, Germany. The son of a cantor, Weill displayed musical talent early on. By the time he was twelve, he was composing and mounting concerts and dramatic works in the hall above his family’s quarters in the Gemeindehaus. During the First World War, the teenage Weill was conscripted as a substitute accompanist at the Dessau Court Theater. After studying theory and composition with Albert Bing, Kapellmeister of the Theater, Weill enrolled at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, but found the conservative training and the infrequent lessons with Engelbert Humperdinck too stifling. After a season as conductor of the newly formed municipal theater in Lüdenscheid, he returned to Berlin and was accepted into Ferruccio Busoni’s master class in composition. He supported himself through a wide range of musical occupations, from playing organ in a synagogue to piano in a Bierkeller, by tutoring students (including Claudio Arrau and Maurice Abravanel) in music theory, and, later, by contributing music criticism to Der deutsche Rundfunk, the weekly program journal of the German radio.
By 1925, a series of performances in Berlin and at international music festivals established Weill as one of the leading composers of his generation, along with Paul Hindemith and Ernst Krenek. Already at nineteen, he decided the musical theater would be his calling. In 1926, he made a sensational theatrical debut in Dresden with his first opera, Der Protagonist, a one-act work on a text by Georg Kaiser. Weill considered Der neue Orpheus (1925), a cantata for soprano, violin, and orchestra on a poem by Iwan Goll, to be a turning point in his career; it prefigured the stylistic multiplicity and provocative ambiguity typical of his compositional style. Modernist aesthetics are most apparent in the one-act surrealist opera Royal Palace (1926) with a libretto by Iwan Goll (exceptional in its incorporation of film and dance), and the opera buffa Der Zar lässt sich photographieren (1927) with a libretto by Georg Kaiser. By this time in his career, Weill’s use of dance idioms associated with American dance music and his pursuit of collaborations with the finest contemporary playwrights had become essential strategies in his attempts to reform the musical stage.Read More
A commission from the Baden-Baden Music Festival in 1927 led to the creation of Mahagonny (Ein Songspiel), Weill’s first collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, whose Mann ist Mann and whose poetry collection, Die Hauspostille, had captured Weill’s imagination and suggested a compatible literary and dramatic sensibility. The succès de scandale of Mahagonny encouraged Weill and Brecht to continue work on the full-length opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (premiered at Leipzig in March 1930). Exploiting their aggressive popular song-style, Weill and Brecht also wrote several works for singing actors in the commercial theater, including Die Dreigroschenoper and Happy End. They explored other alternatives to the opera establishment in the school-opera Der Jasager and the radio cantatas Das Berliner Requiem and Der Lindberghflug/Der Ozeanflug. Increasingly uncomfortable with Brecht’s restriction of the role of music in his political theater, Weill then turned to another collaborator, the famous stage designer Caspar Neher, for the libretto of his three-act epic opera, Die Bürgschaft (1931), and again to Georg Kaiser for the daring play-with-music Der Silbersee (1932). In both he refined his musical language into what he called “a thoroughly responsible style,” appropriate for the serious and timely topics he addressed.
These later works outraged the Nazis. Riots broke out at several performances and carefully orchestrated propaganda campaigns discouraged productions of his works. In March 1933, Weill fled Germany; he and Lotte Lenya divorced soon thereafter. In Paris, Weill completed his Second Symphony and renewed briefly his collaboration with Brecht for Die sieben Todsünden, a “ballet with singing” for George Balanchine’s troupe “Les Ballets 1933.” He also wrote a number of cabaret chansons, as well as the score for Jacques Deval’s Marie galante. When a German-language premiere of his Der Kuhhandel (libretto by Robert Vambery) seemed hopeless, Weill arranged for a London production of this operetta, which had been adapted as a British musical comedy and retitled A Kingdom for a Cow. In September 1935, Weill went to America, with Lenya, to oversee Max Reinhardt’s production of Franz Werfel’s biblical epic Der Weg der Verheissung, for which Weill had written an extensive oratorio-like score. After many delays, the work was finally staged in 1937 but in truncated form as The Eternal Road.
In the interim, the Group Theatre had recruited Weill to collaborate with distinguished playwright Paul Green on a musical play loosely based on Hasek’s Good Soldier Schweik. Weill’s innovative and extensive score for Johnny Johnson, though still recognizably European in accent, established the composer on the American scene. For a brief period in 1937, Weill had two works running simultaneously in New York. Encouraged by his reception and convinced that the commercial theater offered more possibilities than the traditional opera house, Weill and Lenya decided to stay in the United States, remarried, and applied for American citizenship. Weill followed the Group Theatre to Hollywood and completed two film scores, including Fritz Lang’s You and Me (1938). But he found the motion picture industry hostile to the type of film-opera he envisioned and thereafter always considered Broadway “home.”
During the next decade, he established himself as a new and original voice in the American musical theater. He continued to enlist leading dramatists for the cause of musical theater, including the foremost playwright of the day, Maxwell Anderson. Their first collaboration, Knickerbocker Holiday, was only a modest success, but it showcased Weill’s first American “standard,” “September Song.” Weill’s first hit was Lady in the Dark, a musical play about psychoanalysis by Moss Hart with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, his return to the theater after his brother’s death in 1937. A daring experiment, with music restricted to only the dream sequences (a technique analogous to the use of color in The Wizard of Oz), Lady in the Dark broke Broadway records for production costs but recouped all of it in its 777 performances, with Gertrude Lawrence appearing as Liza both on Broadway and national tour. Weill quickly acquired the reputation of being the finest craftsman in the business, no less for his large-scale musical forms than his unique insistence on orchestrating all of his own works.
The even greater success of One Touch of Venus (1943, book by S.J. Perelman, lyrics by Ogden Nash) gave Weill the credibility to embark on a series of bold ventures. He was elected as the only composer-member of the distinguished Playwrights Producing Company, which brought Elmer Rice’s Pulitzer-Prize winning drama Street Scene to Broadway as an American opera, the first real successor to Porgy and Bess. With lyrics by the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, Street Scene garnered more favorable reviews than had Porgy and enjoyed a longer Broadway run. Next teaming up with Alan Jay Lerner for an original musical entitled Love Life (1948), Weill used American musical idioms and a vaudeville frame to chronicle in non-linear form the impact of 150 years of “progress” on the marriage and family of Sam and Susan Cooper, who never age. Now considered the first “concept musical,” its first genuine successor was Cabaret (1965), and even Stephen Sondheim found Love Life “very useful” for his own work. Weill’s last Broadway piece was no less daring: the musical tragedy Lost in the Stars, adapted by Anderson from Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Starring Todd Duncan and directed by Rouben Mamoulian, it challenged the Broadway institution and audience to a degree that would not be exceeded until the 1970s in the Sondheim-Prince collaborations.
During the forties, Weill had also contributed extensively to the American war effort, as well as a series of Jewish and Zionist pageants. Although all of the Hollywood adaptations of his musicals mutilated his scores, he enjoyed his work with Ira Gershwin on the original film musical Where Do We Go from Here? (1945). He was also very proud of his folk-opera Down in the Valley (1948), which received hundreds of productions in schools and communities throughout the nation. Weill was at work on a musical version of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn and was planning another American opera (for baritone Lawrence Tibbett) when he suffered a heart attack shortly after his fiftieth birthday. He died on April 3, 1950. In his obituary Virgil Thomson identified Weill as “the most original single workman in the whole musical theater, internationally considered, during the last quarter century… Every work was a new model, a new shape, a new solution to dramatic problems.”
His death came at the time that his German works were beginning to be rediscovered. Yet, the resulting dichotomy of the “two Weills” has thus remained for posterity to resolve. Although Weill claimed that he “didn’t give a damn about writing for posterity,” Maxwell Anderson prophesied in his eulogy that “it takes decades and scores of years and centuries to sift things out, but it’s done in time — and Kurt will emerge as one of the very few who wrote great music.”
Bertolt Brecht, original name Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (born February 10, 1898, Augsburg, Germany—died August 14, 1956, East Berlin), German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer whose epic theatre departed from the conventions of theatrical illusion and developed the drama as a social and ideological forum for leftist causes.
Until 1924 Brecht lived in Bavaria, where he was born, studied medicine (Munich, 1917–21), and served in an army hospital (1918). From this period came his first play, Baal (produced 1923); his first success, Drums in the Night (Kleist Prize, 1922); the poems and songs collected as Die Hauspostille (1927; A Manual of Piety, 1966), his first professional production, Edward II (1924); and his admiration for Wedekind, Rimbaud, Villon, and Kipling.
During this period he also developed a violently anti-bourgeois attitude that reflected his generation’s deep disappointment in the civilization that had come crashing down at the end of World War I. Among Brecht’s friends were members of the Dadaist group, who aimed at destroying what they condemned as the false standards of bourgeois art through derision and iconoclastic satire. The man who taught him the elements of Marxism in the late 1920s was Karl Korsch, an eminent Marxist theoretician who had been a Communist member of the Reichstag but had been expelled from the German Communist Party in 1926.Read More
In Berlin (1924–33) he worked briefly for the directors Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator, but mainly with his own group of associates. With the composer Kurt Weill he wrote the satirical, successful ballad opera The Threepenny Opera (1928) and the opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930). He also wrote what he called “Lehr-stücke” (“exemplary plays”)—baldly didactic works for performance outside the orthodox theatre—to music by Weill, Hindemith, and Hanns Eisler. In these years he developed his theory of “epic theatre” and an austere form of irregular verse. He also became a Marxist.
In 1933 he went into exile—in Scandinavia (1933–41), mainly in Denmark, and then in the United States (1941–47), where he did some film work in Hollywood. In Germany his books were burned and his citizenship was withdrawn. He was cut off from the German theatre; but between 1937 and 1941 he wrote most of his great plays, his major theoretical essays and dialogues, and many of the poems collected as Svendborger Gedichte (1939). Between 1937 and 1939, he wrote, but did not complete, the novel The Business Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar (1957). It concerns a scholar researching a biography of Caesar several decades after his assassination.
The plays of Brecht’s exile years became famous in the author’s own and other productions: notable among them are Mother Courage and Her Children (1941), a chronicle play of the Thirty Years’ War; The Life of Galileo (1943); The Good Woman of Setzuan (1943), a parable play set in prewar China; The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1957), a parable play of Hitler’s rise to power set in prewar Chicago; Herr Puntila and His Man Matti (1948), a Volksstück (popular play) about a Finnish farmer who oscillates between churlish sobriety and drunken good humour; and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (first produced in English, 1948; Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, 1949), the story of a struggle for possession of a child between its highborn mother, who deserts it, and the servant girl who looks after it.
Brecht left the United States in 1947 after having had to give evidence before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He spent a year in Zürich, working mainly on Antigone-Modell 1948 (adapted from Hölderlin’s translation of Sophocles; produced 1948) and on his most important theoretical work, the“A Little Organum for the Theatre” (1949). The essence of his theory of drama, as revealed in this work, is the idea that a truly Marxist drama must avoid the Aristotelian premise that the audience should be made to believe that what they are witnessing is happening here and now. For he saw that if the audience really felt that the emotions of heroes of the past—Oedipus, or Lear, or Hamlet—could equally have been their own reactions, then the Marxist idea that human nature is not constant but a result of changing historical conditions would automatically be invalidated. Brecht therefore argued that the theatre should not seek to make its audience believe in the presence of the characters on the stage—should not make it identify with them, but should rather follow the method of the epic poet’s art, which is to make the audience realize that what it sees on the stage is merely an account of past events that it should watch with critical detachment. Hence, the “epic” (narrative, nondramatic) theatre is based on detachment, on the Verfremdungseffekt (alienation effect), achieved through a number of devices that remind the spectator that he is being presented with a demonstration of human behaviour in scientific spirit rather than with an illusion of reality, in short, that the theatre is only a theatre and not the world itself.
In 1949, Brecht went to Berlin to help stage Mother Courage and Her Children (with his wife, Helene Weigel, in the title part) at Reinhardt’s old Deutsches Theater in the Soviet sector. This led to formation of the Brechts’ own company, the Berliner Ensemble, and to permanent return to Berlin. Henceforward the Ensemble and the staging of his own plays had first claim on Brecht’s time. Often suspect in eastern Europe because of his unorthodox aesthetic theories and denigrated or boycotted in the West for his Communist opinions, he yet had a great triumph at the Paris Théâtre des Nations in 1955, and in the same year in Moscow he received a Stalin Peace Prize. He died of a heart attack in East Berlin the following year.
Brecht was, first, a superior poet, with a command of many styles and moods. As a playwright he was an intensive worker, a restless piecer-together of ideas not always his own (The Threepenny Opera is based on John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, and Edward II on Marlowe), a sardonic humorist, and a man of rare musical and visual awareness; but he was often bad at creating living characters or at giving his plays tension and shape. As a producer he liked lightness, clarity, and firmly knotted narrative sequence; a perfectionist, he forced the German theatre, against its nature, to underplay. As a theoretician he made principles out of his preferences—and even out of his faults.
A rising star in the younger generation of conductors, Francesco Milioto is forging a unique career as a versatile interpreter of both the operatic and orchestral repertoire. He is currently Music Director of OPERA San Antonio and Artistic Advisor to the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Mr. Milioto also enjoys guest conducting relationships with a wide variety of organizations, and cover/assistant conductor positions with several distinguished opera companies. Praised for his energy and integrity on the podium, the Chicago Tribune has said, “Milioto presided with Bernsteinesque bravura”.
General and Artistic Director of The Atlanta Opera since 2013, Israeli born Tomer Zvulun is also one of leading stage director of his generation, earning consistent praise for his creative vision and innovative interpretations. His work has been presented by prestigious opera houses in Europe, South and Central America, Israel and the US, including The Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas, San Diego, Boston, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Montreal, Buenos Aires, Israeli Opera, and the festivals of Wexford, Glimmerglass and Wolf Trap, as well as leading educational institutes and universities such as The Juilliard School, Indiana University, and Boston University.
Tomer spent seven seasons on the directing staff of the Metropolitan Opera where he directed revivals of Carmen and Tosca and was involved with more than a dozen new productions. He is a frequent guest director in companies such as Seattle Opera (Semele, La Bohème, Eugene Onegin, Lucia di Lammermoor), Dallas Opera (Die Fledermaus, La Bohème), Houston (Flying Dutchman, Rigoletto), Wexford Festival (Silent Night, Dinner at Eight), Cincinnati Opera (Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Flying Dutchman), Wolf Trap (Falstaff, Don Giovanni), Israeli Opera (Dead Man Walking, Giulio Cesare) among others. His European premiere of Silent Night at the Wexford Festival received two Irish Times Awards and traveled from Ireland to Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival and the opera companies of Atlanta, Austin and Salt Lake City.Read More
Zvulun directed over 15 new productions in his home company in Atlanta, including Dead Man Walking, Flying Dutchman, Soldier Songs, Silent Night, Maria de Buenos Aires, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Lucia di Lammermoor, Magic Flute, and Eugene Onegin to name but a few. During Tomer’s tenure, the company’s fundraising has tripled, resulting in twice the number of productions presented annually. His focus on innovation has garnered national attention and resulted in a Harvard Business School case study chronicling The Atlanta Opera’s turnaround, an International Opera Awards nomination, an ArtsATL Luminary Award, and an invitation to deliver a TEDx Talk about innovation in opera.
His upcoming projects include a new Rigoletto in Houston; a new Salome in Atlanta and Kansas City; revivals of his acclaimed production of Eugene Onegin in Montreal, Seattle and Palm Beach; Silent Night at Utah Opera; and Madama Butterfly and Glory Denied in Atlanta. He is currently working on developing a world premiere based on Anne Frank’s Diary and Sensorium Ex, a world premiere based on a story about artificial intelligence.
Tomer’s recent shows have traveled across continents, receiving critical acclaim for their striking visuals and cinematic quality. Some of them included The Flying Dutchman (Houston, Cincinnati, Atlanta), Dinner at Eight (Wexford Festival, Minnesota Opera), Eugene Onegin (Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City), Lucia di Lammermoor (Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland) Silent Night (Wexford, Atlanta, Glimmerglass, Washington, Austin), Soldier Songs (Atlanta, San Diego), Dead Man Walking (New Orleans, Atlanta), La Bohème (Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta, Dallas), Lucrezia Borgia (Buenos Aires), Gianni Schicchi (Juilliard, IVAI Tel Aviv), L’heaure Espagnole (Juilliard), Magic Flute (Cincinnati, Atlanta, Indiana University), Don Giovanni (Wolf Trap, Cincinnati), Die Fledermaus (Dallas, Kansas City), Falstaff (Wolf Trap, Des Moines), Rigoletto (Boston, Atlanta, Omaha, Charlotte), Madama Butterfly (Atlanta, Castleton Festival, New Orleans), Tosca (National Theatre Panama, Atlanta) and Semele (Seattle).
Tomer Zvulun was born and raised in Israel, attended the open University in Tel Aviv and Harvard Business School and makes his home in Atlanta.
The Kurt Weill Foundation, Inc. promotes and perpetuates the legacies of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya by encouraging an appreciation of Weill’s music through support of performances, recordings, and scholarship, and by fostering an understanding of Weill’s and Lenya’s lives and work within diverse cultural contexts. It administers the Weill-Lenya Research Center, a Grant and Collaborative Performance Initiative Program, the Lotte Lenya Competition, the Kurt Weill/Julius Rudel Conducting Fellowship, the Kurt Weill Prize for scholarship in music theater, and publishes the Kurt Weill Edition and the Kurt Weill Newsletter. Building upon the legacies of both Weill and Lenya, the Foundation nurtures talent, particularly in the creation, performance, and study of musical theater in its various manifestations and media. Since 2012, the Kurt Weill Foundation has administered the musical and literary estate of composer Marc Blitzstein.