Bertolt Brecht,Threepenny Opera and Tin Paisar Pala

· Philosophy, Political, Theatre

Playwright, poet and lyricist Bertolt Brecht was among the most controversial figures ever to impact musical theater; an avowed Marxist, he worked to create one of the most provocative bodies of work ever staged. I came to know of Bertolt Brecht  in my college days from the staging of the Bengali version of `Threepenny Opera” called  “Tin Paisar Pala” in Academy of Fine Arts Calcutta..He was then a favorite of the Coffee House and owned by the left intellectuals of Calcutta.

Ajitesh Bandopaddhaya had done a unique work in translating and staging Bertolt Brecht’s  ‘Three Penny Opera’ as ‘Teen Paisar Pala’. Ajitesh opened the windows of world theatre for Bengali audience. Amidst the Rabindrik and poetic drama he adapted plays of foreign playwrights in such a way that they were acceptable by the local audiences. They were simple and touched the hearts of the common people so much that that they could relate to it easily. The structure and language acting created magic that heightened his success during those times. It was staged by Nandikar,,a theatre group in Calcutta started by Ajitesh and Asit Bandopadhyay along with a group of committed young theatre persons . Bandopaddhaya’s plays were centered around the burning topics of his times like the rise of lower class, illusion of reality, identity crisis that provided spectators with practical education. He connected the poignant works of Brecht with Indian roots seamlessly. He kept pace with commercial theatre but his works rendered food for though

Bertolt Brecht was born on Feb. 10, 1898, in Augsburg. The son of a Catholic businessman, Brecht was raised, however, in his mother’s Protestant faith. In 1917 he matriculated at the University of Munich to study philosophy and medicine. In in Augsburg, Bavaria; while attending Munich University, he was drafted to serve as a medic in World War I, later forging a career as a writer. The unpleasantness of this experience confirmed his hatred of war and stimulated his sympathy for the unsuccessful Socialist revolution of 1919.

His early Expressionist dramas — Trommeln in der Nacht, Baal and Im Dickicht der Stadte — reflected his anti-establishment leanings, as well as an obsession with violence; he then spent the majority of the 1920s touring the cabaret circuits of Germany and Scandinavia, often courting further controversy over the outspoken politics and nihilistic edge of his songs.

In 1928 Brecht earned his greatest theatrical success with Die Dreigroschenoper, a musical adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera featuring music composed by Weill; like the previous year’s Mann Ist Mann and 1929’s Mahagonny, it spotlighted the playwright’s gift for incisive satire of bourgeois sensibilities.

By 1933, Brecht — exiled to Denmark in the wake of the Reichstag fire — had acquired an international reputation on the strength of work like The Threepenny Opera, which opened in an English-language version on Broadway. An outspoken critic of the Nazis, his plays, poems and radio dramas of the period attacked the Hitler regime with thinly-veiled contempt; finally, in 1941 he was forced to flee to Hollywood, settling there to write works including Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis and Leben des Galilei. In 1947 Brecht was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his pro-Communist beliefs.

In 1948 Brecht settled in East Berlin, where he remained until his death. He and his wife, founded the Berliner Ensemble. This group became the most famous theater company in East Germany and the foremost interpreter of Brecht. He himself devoted much of his time to directing. He wrote no new plays except Die Tage der Commune. There is some evidence that he modified his austere conception of the function of drama and conceded the importance of the theater as a vehicle for entertainment.

He died of a heart attack in August 1956.

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