Yuri Lyubimov: The Three-Penny Opera, 1981.

Context of the Performance in Theatrical Culture

The founder and director of Taganka Theatre in Moscow was working in Hungary for the third time, and his direction unambiguously opposed the established Hungarian modes of playing Brecht. In this case, that tradition was represented by the first premier in the Vígszínház as A koldus operája (The Beggar’s Opera) (1930), the renewal of Szinetár...

Dramatic text, dramaturgy

Lyubimov’s direction played on the aesthetic distance between the cheery operetta filled with anti-capitalist ideology, and the analysis of the moral bankruptcy of modern bourgeois society. He didn’t use the title by John Gay & John Christopher Pepusch, but the title of Brecht’s play, the narrator’s text of the street singer was proclaimed in German,...

Direction

Lyubimov’s direction rendered the gestures forming the relationship between the fable and the songs commenting on its stages, both visible and audible. Since the performance’s rhythm was built around the songs and their dynamic, and the songs became hits almost immediately after the first premier, the lyrics are not pointing out the moral and political...

Acting

The actors are on-stage during the entire performance, they paint and then wipe off their song-masks in front of the audience, sometimes they speak into microphones and sometimes without them, they create their characters with a typifying acting style, and use Stanislavsky’s school of psychological realism to make their emotions believable. A deliberately incoherent set...

Sight and Sound

It’s not merely the bus, considered moving by the actors despite its immobility, carrying the orchestra on its roof, or the shopping basket of the narrator (hiding handcuffs and other props) that realize the principle of ‘selective realism.’ The requisites partially allude to the settings within the dramatic world, and the performance history of the...

Impact and posterity

Lyubimov’s direction made the private event of Munka-kör on New Year’s Eve 1929 a part of theatrical history, where Kassák didn’t simply rewrite the Brecht play, but performed it, focusing on the songs, and proved that The Three-Penny Opera could be a popular success, even if it wasn’t played as ‘light entertainment by a flawed...