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Bertolt Brecht

Eugen Bertholt Friedrich Brecht
Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht

Poet, Playwright, Lyricist, Theater Director

(1898 - 1956)

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Bertolt Brecht was born in Germany and studied medicine and philosophy at the University of Munich, where he increasingly devoted himself to writing poetry and plays, presenting his first successful drama in 1922. It was in Bavaria that he served as a medical orderly and developed his antipathy to war and his interest in communism. It was also at this time that he began to crystallize his ideas for “epic theater.” He theorized that the audience should not believe in the reality of the characters but should view the play in a detached manner. His staging and his characters were stylized so as to promote his didactic themes.

In 1924 he went to Berlin where he soon began his collaboration with composer Kurt Weill. Their 1928 production for which Brecht wrote the book and lyrics, The Threepenny Opera (adapted from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera), was cynical, highly stylized, and wildly successful. It also produced a song that would become part of the jazz standards repertoire, “Mack the Knife,” with English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein. Their 1930 production, Mahagonny, was a satire of capitalism set in a mythical American city. Their relationship outside of the theater was not cordial, and their final collaboration was on The Seven Deadly Sins in 1933 after which they both fled Nazi Germany.

Brecht lived temporarily in Scandanavia and the U.S. and it was during this time that he produced some of his finest works: Mother Courage and Her Children (1941), The Good Woman of Setzuan (1943), and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1945). Brecht left the U.S. in 1947 after being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He returned permanently to Germany in 1949 to establish and direct East Berlin’s Berliner Ensemble. Although a controversial figure, Brecht unquestionably influenced 20th Century theater.

- Sandra Burlingame

The Threepenny Opera (1954 New York Cast)

Lotte Lenya, Beatrice Arthur, Charlotte Rae, Marc Blitzstein, Jo Sullivan Loesser, Scott Merrill, John Astin

Mack the Knife: The Complete Ella in Berlin

Paul Smith Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald
Reading and Viewing

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Bertolt Brecht

Brecht Collected Plays: One: Baal, Drums in the Night, In the Jungle of Cities, The Life of Edward II in England, and five one-act plays (Methuen World Classics)

A & C Black

Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art and His Times

C Trade Paper

Bertolt Brecht

Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic

Hill and Wang

Bertolt Brecht

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Arcade Publishing

Bertolt Brecht


Grove Press

Bertolt Brecht

Mother Courage and Her Children

Grove Press

Bertolt Brecht

Jewish Wife and Other Short Plays: Includes: In Search of Justice; Informer; Elephant Calf; Measures Taken; Exception and the Rule; Salzburg Dance of Death (Brecht, Bertolt)

Grove Press

Bertolt Brecht

Selected Poems

Harvest Books

Bertolt Brecht

The Good Woman of Setzuan

University of Minnesota Press

Kurt Weill - The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1998)


Bertolt Brecht, Tom Conti, John Gielgud, Edward Fox, Patrick Magee

Galileo (1975)

Kino Video


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