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Bertolt Brecht

Biography

German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956) was one of the 20th century’s most significant dramatists. Notable plays include Life of Galileo and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. He had a brief but celebrated musical partnership with Kurt Weill, their collaborations including Die Dreigroschenoper, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and Die sieben Todsünden.

Brecht was born in Augsburg and studied medicine at Munich University 1917–21. He wrote prolifically from the early 1920s onwards, with his works with Weill mostly dating from 1927–30. From 1930 his principal musical collaborator was Hanns Eisler, who wrote music for several plays and set many protest songs and the opera Die Massnahme. Eisler also shared the Marxist views which deeply influenced Brecht’s work. Brecht is well known today for the concept of ‘epic theatre’, a non-Aristotelian form of theatre in which the artificiality of the play is highlighted and the audience is provoked to action rather than passive emotion. Many of Brecht’s later plays were given first performances by the Berliner Ensemble, the theatre company he founded with his wife Helene Weigel in 1949.

The influence of epic theatre and the ‘Verfremdungseffekt’ (estrangement effect) on later playwrights and directors has been tremendous; many trends in theatre and opera direction that are still considered progressive today have been directly influenced by Brecht’s approach. Meanwhile, his operas with Weill remain some of the most popular from the era.

Videos

News and features

The most striking art inspired by opera

The most striking art inspired by opera

26 October 2016

From the grand stages to the audiences themselves, opera has long inspired painters, photographers and mixed-media artists.

Some things are better left unsung: Why composers use speech in opera

Some things are better left unsung: Why composers use speech in opera

2 November 2015

Composers have long explored the gamut of vocal expression from a whisper to a scream.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny to be relayed live to cinemas across the world on 1 April 2015

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny to be relayed live to cinemas across the world on 1 April 2015

31 March 2015

John Fulljames’s new production of Brecht and Weill’s satire stars Anne Sofie von Otter, Willard White and Christine Rice.

Photos

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Peter Hoare, Willard W. White, Anne Sofie Von Otter as Leocadia Begbick, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Christine Rice, Kurt Streit and Neal Davies in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Chorus of the Royal Opera House in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production photo of John Fulljames's production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Jack O’Brien, Darren Jeffery as Bank Account Bill and Neal Davies as Alaska Wolf Joe in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses, Anne Sofie Von Otter as Leocadia Begbick and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (Creative Commons)

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses, Anne Sofie Von Otter as Leocadia Begbick and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Neal Davies, Darren Jeffery in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Anne Sofie Von Otter,Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny and Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Production Photo of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White, Peter Hoare, Anne Sofie Von Otter and Kurt Streit in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Anne Sofie Von Otter, Willard W. White , Peter Hoare, Christine Rice , Kurt Streit, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Darren Jeffery and Robert Clark as the Bar Pianist.

Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre and Christine Rice as Jenny in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Willard W. White as Trinity Moses and Peter Hoare as Fatty in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Kurt Streit as Jimmy Macintyre, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Jack O’Brien, Darren Jeffery as Bank Account Bill and Neal Davies as Alaska Wolf Joe in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

Christine Rice as Jenny and Willard W. White as Trinity Moses in Fall of the City of Mahagonny