Written in 1728, John Gay’s opera caricatures society, marriage and Italian operatic style in this comic satire which is considered revolutionary because it took on poverty and corruption as its subject as told by the thieves, prostitutes and villains of the slums and prisons of 18th century London. The lyrics were set to famous songs the day making it hugely popular with audiences and a radical departure from traditional opera. Bertolt Brech and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera is based on this work.
In the story Peachum is horrified to learn of their daughter’s secret marriage to a roguish, notorious highwayman Macheath and plot his downfall. Eventually Macheath is captured and destined to be hanged, but Gay’s plot defied conventional expectations by not ending with punishing its villains.