Personalities | Bertolt Brecht | Modern Era | Opera

1898–1956, German

A poet and playwright, Brecht was best known for his departure from the conventions of theatrical illusion to create ‘epic theatre’ as a tool for social commentary. At its least nuanced and most dogmatic, this amounted to a didactic forum for his communist cause. Eugen Bertolt Friedrich Brecht was born and raised in Bavaria, where he allied himself with the Dadaist movement. Living in Berlin from 1924 to 1933, he thrived among like-minded artists. His particular genius was in his poetic work and in his ability to draw together a group of exceptional dramatic talents to contribute to his artistic vision (a significant proportion of the content of his plays and libretti came not directly from his own pen, but from his collective of writers). It was in Berlin that he met composer Kurt Weill and their association produced Die Dreigroschenoper, based on John Gay’s (1685–1732) The Beggar’s Opera; Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny; and Der Jasager. By now a Communist, Brecht fled Berlin in 1933, and that same year his final collaboration with Weill, Die sieben Todsünden (‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, 1933), was produced in Paris. Following 15 years of exile in Europe and the United States, he returned to Germany in 1948.

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