Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht
Bob Wilson's powerful production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's masterpiece, served by the excellent Berliner Ensemble
L’Opéra de quat’sous © L. Leslie-Spinks
L’Opéra de quat’sous © MuTphoto / B. Braun
Approximate running time
1st part: 2h10 - Intermission: 20mn - 2nd part: 40mn
Sung in German with French subtitles
Loosely based on John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1728), The Threepenny Opera was first performed in summer 1928 in Berlin. Encouraged by the work's stage success, Austrian film director G.W. Pabst made it into a film three years later. The popularity of The Threepenny Opera has never waned since and Kurt Weill's score has been a constant source of inspiration for the leading names in European theatre. Since 2006, strong ties have existed between the Théâtre de la Ville and the Berliner Ensemble.
Robert Wilson's production of The Threepenny Opera was performed there in 2009 and in 2010. It was a real theatrical shock: right from the outset, the audience was struck by the "Berlinish" colour of this grating cabaret, full of extravagantly made-up characters reminiscent of German expressionistic painting. And yet Bob Wilson's distinctive touch was also very evident there, in that science of simple lines and lights of which he is a consummate master. An abstract geometrical set, neon lights and a majestic red curtain banish boundaries. The stage becomes a true work of art, imbued with a sense of "the uncanny".
Song, lights, music (provided by 10 or so musicians in the pit) and various sounds (wonderful work on the sound effects) dialogue with true grace and an incredible dramatic clarity. A dreamlike mixture of silent film, expressionist art, circus, music hall and music in which jazz, song and opera rub shoulders. The work is like a satire of corrupt bourgeoisie. While it takes its original source in Victorian England, Bob Wilson transcends the social issue with a colourful, Machiavellian painting. It seems to be saying that, in the end, the "theatre of life" has the upper hand. This is an extremely theatrical opera.