Gay, John, English poet and dramatist, librettist of The Beggar’s Opera-, b. Barnstaple, Devon (baptized), Sept. 16, 1685; d. London, Dec. 4, 1732. The Beggar’s Opera was premiered in London on Jan. 29, 1728, and was immensely popular for a century, chiefly because of its sharp satire and the English and Scots folk melodies it used. It has had a number of successful revivals. The government disliked it, and forbade the performance of its sequel, Polly, the score of which was printed in 1729. When Polly was finally performed in London on June 19, 1777, it was a fiasco, because the conditions satirized no longer prevailed.
C. Pearce, Polly Peachum: The Story of “Polly” and “The Beggar’s Opera” (London, 1923); W. Schultz, G.’s Beggar’s Opera (New Haven, Conn., 1923); O. Sherwin, Mr. G.; Being a Picture of the Life and Times of the Author of The Beggar’s Opera (N.Y., 1929); C. Tolksdorf, J. G’s Beggar’s Opera und Bert Brechts Dreigroschenoper (Rheinberg, 1934).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire