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The Threepenny Opera and the Musical Gestus of Kurt Weill

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Weill's contribution to the gestic concept of The Threepenny Opera.
    1. The lyrical gestus and the musical gestus.
    2. Satirical gest thrust upon the audience.
  3. The music for 'Mac the Knife'.
  4. The Moritat-motif of the added sixth crops.
  5. Macheath and Jenny's 'Ballad of Immoral Earnings'.
  6. Conclusion: Weill's essay 'Gestus and Music'.
  7. Bibliography.

These characteristics which Salten describes seem to relate to the concept of gestus, which is a difficult word to interpret but nevertheless has become the crucial link connecting Brecht's theories of acting, playwriting and theatrical production. In epic theatre, actors become demonstrators of a character, rather than the characters themselves (rather than using Stanislavsky's method of acting, which relies on an actor "stepping into a character's shoes"). Brecht intended his actors to always remember that they were playing another person's story and emotions. Most importantly, epic performers are always concerned with wider social relations, rather than the egoism of becoming wrapped up in one's character. Gestus expresses these wider social relations with "the idea of contradiction and opposition and the need to find a visible and theatrically effective way of expressing both opposites and the unity of these opposites" (Morley 186).

[...] Through the song and the following scene, the world of Threepenny Opera clearly emerges: no one is to be trusted, and anyone will betray anyone in order to earn their thirty pieces of silver. This idea connects with the next song, "The Second Threepenny Finale What Keeps Mankind Alive?" Dreigroschenfinale?), which ends Act Two. It is in this song that Brecht seems to become expressly political. It is actually composed of three separate systems. Ronald Sanders describes the first system as "appropriately stark . [...]

[...] Ferran and others are concerned mostly with the lyrical gestus of The Threepenny Opera, the lyrical gestus goes hand-in-hand with the musical gestus (as described by Weill and Taylor) in each song, and it is the combination of the two that makes the songs effective. These different gesti serve to create one large gestus, through which the piece's intentions and satirical social attitudes are conveyed to an audience. In order to show these attitudes musically, Weill deliberately rejected traditional Handelian opera and wrote a jazzy, syncopated, dissonant score, working in melodies from popular North and South American music, which were a fad in Berlin at the time (Fuegi 199). [...]

[...] ?Motifs, tags and related matters.? Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera. Ed. Stephen Hinton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 149- 160. Ferran, Peter W. Threepenny Songs: Cabaret and the Lyrical Gestus.? Theatre 30:3 (2000): 5-21. Fuegi, John. Brecht and Company: Sex, Politics and the Making of Modern Drama. New York: Grove Press Hinton, Stephen. ?Misunderstanding Threepenny Opera.'? Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera. Ed. Stephen Hinton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 181-192. Hirsch, Foster. Kurt Weill on Stage: From Berlin to Broadway. New York: Alfred A. [...]

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