Faculty to present staged reading of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’

A scene from The Beggar’s Opera painted by William Hogarth, circa 1728.
A scene from “The Beggar’s Opera” painted by William Hogarth, circa 1728. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The 21st annual faculty staged reading will be a concert performance of John Gay’s “ballad opera,” “The Beggar’s Opera” of 1728, generally considered the first musical. It will be held in the lecture hall of the Yale Center for British Art on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. The script has been edited to run about 75 minutes. Admission is free and open to the public.

Leading a cast of eight actor-singers is the eminent baroque tenor James Taylor, director of the Yale Voxtet at the School of Music, who will be joined by guest soprano Maria Jette and graduate student (and former Whiffenpoof bass) David McIntosh. Playing the younger roles are five undergraduates: Cami Arboles, Jared Michaud, Delilah Napier, Lucy Tomasso, and David Townley. English professors David Bromwich and David Quint will speak the roles of Player and Beggar. The music is directed by Grant Herreid (theorbo, baroque guitar, recorder), who leads an instrumental ensemble consisting also of Vivian Mayers (violin), Lucine Musaelian (viola da gamba) and Jacob Reed (harpsichord). Editing and general direction is by Murray Biggs.

Perhaps better known than this 18th-century work is its adaptation exactly 200 years later by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, ‘The Threepenny Opera,’” says Briggs. “Yet the pioneering original has continued to entertain and delight audiences, not least for its music, which was assembled by Christopher Johann Pepusch mostly from anonymous popular tunes of the day and earlier, but also appropriating airs by the likes of Handel and Purcell.”

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