Music: Old Beggar in Manhattan

One summer night in 1928, first nighters crowded into a Berlin theater to see Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), composed by a young highbrow named Kurt Weill on a text by a proletarian poet named Bert Brecht. Nobody thought it would last more than a few performances. How could an eight-piece orchestra and a tatterdemalion cast compete with the great music dramas of Wagner and the moderns? But two years later, Threepenny Opera was still running, and since then it has had thousands of performances, including a handful in the U.S. Last week it...

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