CCM’s year-long Kurt Weill Festival resumes this month with a dynamic new production of the iconic musical The Threepenny Opera. Composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by dramatist Bertolt Brecht (adapted into English by Marc Blitzstein), The Threepenny Opera weaves the riveting tale of notorious bandit and womanizer Macheath (“Mack the Knife”) and his seedy companions in London’s underworld. Weill’s innovative score invented a new form of musical theatre, leading the way for such shows as Chicago and Cabaret.
CCM’s Mainstage Series production of this jazz-infused musical is directed by Robin Guarino, with musical direction by Roger Grodsky, choreography by Patti James and scenic designs by Tony Award-winning guest artist John Arnone. The Threepenny Opera runs Thursday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 10, in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater. Tickets are on sale now. This production contains mature subject matter.
Premiering in Berlin in 1928, The Threepenny Opera is a satirical take on traditional opera and operetta, perhaps best known for its opening ballad “Mack the Knife,” which has since been recorded by countless artists including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra. The Threepenny Opera exhibits a segment of Weill’s eclectic body of work that is totally distinctive from the one audiences saw during CCM’s acclaimed revival of Weill, Langston Hughes and Elmer Rice’s opera Street Scene this past November.
Theatre of Epic Proportions
Adapted from an 18th century ballad opera by John Gay (which itself was a parody of baroque composer George Frideric Handel’s operas), The Threepenny Opera is a work of “epic theatre,” designed to challenge conventional notions of property and art. A theatrical movement from the early to mid-20th century, epic theatre is characterized in part by keeping viewers aware that they are watching a play. “Brecht deliberately takes an ‘anti-naturalistic’ approach,” Guarino explains, “making the audience conscious that they are experiencing art, often by breaking the fourth wall and inspiring social action by disrupting the expectation of simple ‘threepenny’ entertainment.”
One of the ways that CCM’s production will underscore this tradition is by placing the show’s musicians on stage and in costume. “Brecht wanted the music to actually interrupt the play,” says CCM Associate Professor of Musicology and Kurt Weill expert bruce mcclung. “The original production had two different lighting systems so that it would be obvious to the audience when the cast switched from spoken dialogue to singing. Brecht wanted to highlight the break between the two.”
A Tony Award-Winning Artist-in-Residence Helps Set the Stage
Set in an anachronistic Victorian London, The Threepenny Opera features set designs by John Arnone, a Tony Award winner whose impressive list of credits for theatre, film and television spans nearly 40 years. As a founding member of New York’s Lion Theatre Company, Arnone designed numerous critically acclaimed productions including Music Hall Sidelights featuring Kathy Bates as Colette and K: Impressions of Kafka’s The Trial for which he received his first Obie Award. With director Des McAnuff, Arnone worked on over 15 productions at La Jolla Playhouse beginning in 1984, including works by Shakespeare, Moliere, Checkov and new works. They returned to Broadway in 1993 with The Who’s Tommy, which earned five Tony Awards including Best Set Design for Arnone, and the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which won a Tony for its star Matthew Broderick. In addition to being a Tony Award and Obie Award winner, Arnone is the recipient of the Drama Desk Award, NAACP Award, Ovation Award, New York Theater Wing Award, and others.
Arnone will serve as a master teacher-in-residence at CCM for the two weeks leading up to The Threepenny Opera’s opening, but his work on this production actually began last summer. Arnone and Guarino devised an impressive industrial setting for this musical based on Caspar Neher’s designs for the original 1928 production of The Threepenny Opera. Students in CCM’s Department of Theatre Design and Production are in turn bringing these designs to life one piece at a time. CCM senior Michael Feldmann serves as Technical Director for this production, overseeing the realization of Arnone’s substantial designs. “The steel portion of this set alone easily weighs over three tons,” he says. “The finished structure will show signs of rusting and aging,” he adds, suggesting that The Threepenny Opera’s set will be as weathered and compromised as the show’s morally ambiguous characters.
Free Pre-Show Talks Explore the Genesis of the English Adaptation of The Threepenny Opera
University of Houston Professor of Music and Kurt Weill Foundation grant-recipient Howard Pollack will present a pair of free talks about The Threepenny Opera on Friday, March 1. Pollack will discuss Marc Blitzstein’s historic English adaptation of the musical at 2:30 p.m. in conjunction with CCM’s Thinking About Music Lecture Series. Pollack will present a second talk at 7:15 p.m., leading up to the 8 p.m. performance of The Threepenny Opera. Both talks take place in the Baur Room of UC’s Corbett Center for the Performing Arts in CCM Village.
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28
- 8 p.m. Friday, March 1 *
- 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2
- 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3
- 8 p.m. Thursday, March 7
- 8 p.m. Friday. March 8
- 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9
- 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10
* Note: The March 1 performance of The Threepenny Opera will be preceded by a FREE pre-show talk by noted Kurt Weill Scholar Howard Pollack at 7:15 p.m. in the Baur Room of the Corbett Center for the Performing Arts.
Patricia Corbett Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati
Tickets to The Threepenny Opera are $30 for adults, $19 for non-UC students and $17 for UC students with valid ID. $12 student rush tickets will be available for the Saturday matinee performances beginning at 1 p.m. on March 2 and March 9; limit two rush tickets per student ID. This production contains mature subject matter.
Tickets can be purchased online here. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office or over the telephone at 513-556-4183.
Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for more information on parking rates.
For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
About the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music Inc. administers, promotes and perpetuates the legacies of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. It encourages broad dissemination and appreciation of Weill’s music through support of performances, productions, recordings and scholarship; it fosters understanding of Weill’s and Lenya’s lives and work within diverse cultural contexts; and, building upon the legacies of both, it nurtures talent, particularly in the creation, performance and study of musical theater in its various manifestations and media. Learn more about the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by visiting www.kwf.org.
CCM’s production of The Threepenny Opera is a continuation of a year-long festival funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. Other upcoming festival events include “Into a Lamplit Room,” a cabaret night of the songs of Kurt Weill compiled and directed by CCM’s Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theater Aubrey Berg and featuring students from the Musical Theatre program running at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, and Sunday, March 10. The CCM Chamber Choir and Brass Choir will perform Weill’s Kiddush (Prayer for Sanctification) at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, and the CCM Chorale will perform “Ho Billy, O!” from Weill and Alan Jay Lerner’s 1948 musical Love Life at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12.
For a full schedule of festival events, visit www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=16709.
Funded in part by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, NY
The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation: Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor
ArtsWave: Community Partner
Macy’s: Mainstage Season Production Sponsor