Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Next research obsession: The Threepenny Opera

This is all Alan Moore's fault. And Kevin O'Neill. And Jess Nevins. And Nellie McKay.

It really started with Nellie McKay, who I had never heard of before her appearance on the radio program Fresh Air back on November 21, 2007. If you don't know who she is, do yourself a favor and follow the link. Scroll halfway down the page and click on "Hear the Original 'Fresh Air' Interview and Performance" and be amazed at her remarkable voice, wit, and talent. She played Polly Peachum in the 2006 production of Bertolt Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera", and sang the song "Pirate Jenny" on the show.

This really served as my introduction to the play, which I only knew previously through the song "Mack the Knife". But I had warning well in advance that the next chapter of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" series, "Century: 1910", would be heavily intertwined with The Threepenny Opera. Last week I picked it up, and did my first read-through in little more than a day.

Anyone familiar with the work of Alan Moore, and the Moore/O'Neill "League" stories in particular, knows that these stories deserve and demand close reading. Jess Nevins has done all the heavy lifting by researching and creating heavily detailed guidebooks for each of the previous Volumes as well as The Black Dossier, and has put one together for Century: 1910 as well. (Note: The comment about the source for "Doctor Van Helsing," page 18 panel 3, is a joke. Jess told me so.)

There are details in the book that Jess hasn't touched on, yet - the noose from which Macheath is to hang, with a metal ring looped around the rope instead of the traditional knots, is of a design I've never seen before. I'm not familiar with the music from The Threepenny Opera, aside from "Pirate Jenny" (which figures significantly in the book) and "Mack the Knife." There's so much more to be extracted from this book, but it will take time, and study. I'm not sure how long it will take to find the time, but I will, somehow.


SeattleDan said...

I grew up listening to Three Penny. My folks had the cast recording from the 50's which featured Lotte Lenya and Bea Arthur. I've always loved it and lament that all the movie versions made really, really suck.

I've also admired Alan Moore, but mostly from V. I'll check Century:1910 out. Thanks for the tip!

marcoshark said...



My fav version!!