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Beggars Opera, The

Beggar's Opera, The. First and most popular of ballad operas. In 3 acts, arr. and adapted by Christoph Pepusch to a lib. by John Gay. Prod. London, Jan. 1728; NY Dec. 1750. Its 69 tunes are mostly derived from popular ballads of the day. The plot deals with London low life, the ‘hero’ being the highwayman Macheath and the heroine Polly, and is a satire on contemporary politics and on It. operatic conventions. 20th-cent. vogue dates from London revival at Lyric, Hammersmith, in version re-orchestrated and re-harmonized by Frederic Austin which ran from June 1920 for 1,463 perfs. Other versions by E. J. Dent (Birmingham 1944), Britten (Cambridge 1948), Bliss (film, 1953), Jeremy Barlow (1980), and Muldowney (1982). Milhaud's 3-act L'Opéra des gueux (1937) is an arr. of The Beggar's Opera. The Gay-Pepusch sequel Polly, dating from 1729, was banned by the Lord Chamberlain for nearly 50 years. See also Weill, Kurt.

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