Blurred Identities: The Threepenny Opera between Stage-Play, Musical and Film

Judith Wiemers


This article focuses on the Threepenny Opera, a work of musical theatre that transcended genre boundaries throughout its performance history. In 1928, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill transformed the original English Beggars Opera into their famed stage-play with music, before German director G.W. Pabst adapted the material for the screen in 1931. This article explores the transition from stage to screen and the conflict that resulted between the authors and the film production company; it will interrogate how this dispute reflected the complex relationship between theatre and film, and analyse the extent to which Pabsts interpretation is significant for the formation of the new genre of the German musical film.


Threepenny Opera; Brecht; Film; Weill; Music and Literature

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Monographs, journals

Brecht, Bertolt. Gesammelte Werke. Bd. 18 Schriften zur Literatur und Kunst I. Ed. Elisabeth Hauptmann. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1967.

Brecht, Bertolt. Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. Bd. 16 Prosa I. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, Klaus-Detlef Mueller. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag , Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1990.

Eisner, Lotte H. The Haunted Screen Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. Berkeley: University of California Press. Translated from the French by Roger Greaves. 2nd revised edition, 2008.

Heidt, Todd. Double Take: Bla Balzs and the Visual Disorientation of G.W.Pabsts Dreigroschenoper. Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, 50.2 (2014): 178-196.

Hinton, Stephen. Kurt Weill The Threepenny Opera. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Cambridge Opera Handbooks.

Kaes, Anton. The Debate about Cinema: Charting a Controversy (1909-1929). Trans. David J. Levin. New German Critique. Spec. issue on Weimar Film Theory No.40 (1987): 7-33.

Mcke, Panja. Musikalischer Film, Musikalisches Theater Medienwechsel und szenische Collage bei Kurt Weill. Mnster: Waxmann Verlag, 2011.

Silbermann, Marc. 17 October 1930: Bertolt Brechts Threepenny Opera Lawsuit Identifies Contradiction between Individual Creativity and Collective Production in Cinema. A New History of German Cinema. Eds. Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Michael D. Richardson. Rochester: Camden House, 2012: 213-218.

Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. Photo: Casparius. Filmgeschichte in Bildern. Eds. Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek in Zusammenarbeit mit Landesbildstelle Berlin, Berliner Festspiele GmbH. Berlin: Jrgen Kleindienst, 1978.

Willett, John, Ed. and trans. Brecht on Theatre The Development of an Aesthetic. London: Methuen Drama, 1964.

Newspapers, magazines

Berliner Brsen-Courier 20 Feb. 1931 Nr.63. Web.

Berliner Brsen-Kurier 6 May 1929. In Hinton: 11.

Brechts 3 Groschen-Oper Klage vor der Weigert-Kammer. Film-Kurier 8 Oct. 1930 Nr.247, 3. Beilatt. Repr. in Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.

Jger, Ernst. Die 3-Groschenoper Film-Kurier 20 Feb. 1931 Nr.43 Film-Kritik. Repr. in Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin.

3-Groschen-Oper in Urauffhrung Film-Kurier 20 Feb. 1931 Nr.43: 1. Repr. in Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin.

Bert Brecht klagt: Der Autorenstreit um die Drei Groschen-Oper Film-Kurier 1 Oct. 1930 Nr.232. Repr. in Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin.

Der Tag der Prozesse Die Dreigroschenoper vor Gericht Kinematograph 17 Oct. 1930 Nr.244 24.Jg Beilage Nr.39: 7. Repr. in Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin.

Die Dreigroschenoper Kinematograph 20 Feb. 1931 24.Jg. Repr. Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv Berlin.

Dammann. Dreigroschenoper LichtBildBhne 20 Feb. 1931 24. Jg. Nr.44. Print Repr. in Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv Berlin.

London, Dr. Kurt. Die 3-Groschen-Oper Der Film 21 Feb. 1931 Nr. 8. Repr. in Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin.

Ponkie, Dreigroschenoper.Abendzeitung 10 Mar. 1973:


Pabst, Georg Wilhelm. 3-Groschen-Oper, Tonbild-Syndikat, Warner Brothers, 1931.


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