(1913-1976)Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk, on the east coast of England, on 22 November 1913. Although he was already composing vigorously as a child, he nonetheless felt the importance of some solid guidance and in 1928 turned to the composer Frank Bridge; two years later he went to the Royal College of Music in London, studying with Arthur Benjamin, Harold Samuel and John Ireland. While still a student, he wrote his ‘official’ Op. 1, the Sinfonietta for chamber ensemble, and the Phantasy Quartet for oboe and string trio, and in 1936 he composed Our Hunting Fathers, an ambitious song-cycle for soprano and orchestra, which confirmed Britten’s virtuosic vocal and instrumental technique. He was already earning his living as a composer, having joined the GPO (Post Office) Film Unit the previous year; the collaboration he began there with the poet W. H. Auden was to prove an important one throughout his career.
Kurt Weill was born on 2 March 1900 in Dessau, Germany. The son of a cantor, Weill displayed musical talent early on. By the time he was twelve, he was composing and mounting concerts and dramatic works in the hall above his family's quarters in the Gemeindehaus. During the First World War, the teenage Weill was conscripted as a substitute accompanist at the Dessau Court Theater. After studying theory and composition with Albert Bing, Kapellmeister of the Theater, Weill enrolled at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, but found the conservative training and the infrequent lessons with Engelbert Humperdinck too stifling. After a season as conductor of the newly formed municipal theater in Lüdenscheid, he returned to Berlin and was accepted into Ferruccio Busoni's master class in composition. He supported himself through a wide range of musical occupations, from playing organ in a synagogue to piano in a Bierkeller, by tutoring students (including Claudio Arrau and Maurice Abravanel) in music theory, and, later, by contributing music criticism to Der deutsche Rundfunk, the weekly program journal of the German radio.
Polly, the only daughter of Mr. Peachum, king of the beggars, marries the notorious thief Macheath. Motivated by his own self-interest, Peachum not only disapproves of the match, but he also sees Macheath as a mortal enemy and threat to his business. He and his wife, Celia, hatch a plan to get Macheath arrested and hanged, but Polly informs them that London’s chief of police, Tiger Brown, attended their wedding as a friend of the groom. The two friends, who served together in the Indian army, enjoy a symbiotic relationship in which Brown informs Macheath of possible arrests, and Macheath lets Brown know when a crime is about to take place.
Trying to catch Macheath, Mrs. Peachum enlists the help of Macheath’s former lover, the prostitute Jenny. She agrees to give up Macheath’s location for ten shillings and tells Mrs. Peachum that even if Macheath is trying to outwit the police, he will not give up his Thursday visit to the brothel. Mr. Peachum blackmails Brown into capturing Macheath by threatening that he will set his brood of beggars loose on the grounds of Buckingham Palace before the queen’s coronation on Friday. Trapped, Brown agrees to arrest his friend.
ACT 1 Inside the Polka Saloon
A group of Gold Rush miners enter the "Polka" saloon after a day working at the mine ("Hello! Hello! Alla 'Polka'"). After a song by traveling minstrel Jake Wallace ("Che faranno i vecchi miei"), one of the miners, Jim Larkens, is homesick and the miners collect enough money for his fare home ("Jim, perchè piangi?").
A group of miners playing cards discover that Sid is cheating and want to attack him. Sheriff Jack Rance quiets the fight and pins two cards to Sid's jacket, as a sign of a cheater.
A Wells Fargo agent, Ashby, enters and announces that he is chasing the bandit Ramerrez and his gang of Mexicans. Rance toasts Minnie, the girl who owns the saloon, as his future wife, which makes Sonora jealous. The two men begin to fight. Rance draws his revolver but at that moment, a shot rings out and Minnie stands next to the bar with a rifle in her hands ("Hello, Minnie!"). She gives the miners a reading lesson from the Bible ("Dove eravamo?").