The Beggar's Opera was the smash mega-hit of 18th century entertainment. From its opening in 1728 and throughout the rest of that century, there was always at least one production of it being performed somewhere on England. With its satire of opera, politics, class structure, love, marriage and mortals (not to mention a large dose of lawyer bashing), John Gay's 'Ballad Opera' seemed to appeal to the vast majority of the population. The music was sold and sung throughout the land. Clever lines were reproduced on fans, china, and even used in advertisements. The original Polly Peachum captured the heart of the city (her image was everywhere) and eventually the heart of a Duke who made her his Duchess. Traditional opera of the time was pushed strongly out of favor becoming known as 'outrageous opera' by the fans of Gay's show.
Can all this fun still appeal to a modern audience? I believe the answer is yes! Although most of the political references are now obsolete, the author's eye on relationships and the advantages that money allows are still worthy of comment. He created a wonderful underworld of characters that we can still relish in and understand today, including the epitome of the male heart-throb, MacHeath. We may no longer live in a world where one could be taken to the gallows (Tyburn Tree) for the theft of a handkerchief but we do still live with people who exclusively plot for their own advantage. Above all, the evening is intended for enjoyment. So sit back and leave your world for ours, for as the finale says, 'The wretch of today may be happy tomorrow!"