The Beggar's Opera

Cover to studio cast recording

This version of The Beggar's Opera was first staged by THE ENGLISH OPERA GROUP at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, on May 24th, 1948. Subsequent performances were given at the Holland Festival, the Cheltenham Festival of Contemporary Music, the Festival du Littoral Belgique, and at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London.

The cast was as follows :

Beggar - Gladys Parr; Mr. Peachum - George James/Norman Lumsden;Mrs. Peachum - Flora Nielsen/Catherine Lawson; Polly - Nancy Evans; Captain Macheath - Peter Pears; Filch - Norman Plait; Lockit - Otakar Kraus/ Denis Dowling; Lucy Lockit - Rose Hill; Mrs. Trapes - Gladys Parr; Jenny Diver - Jennifer Vyvyan; Mrs. Vixen - Lesley Duff; Suky Tawdry - Lily Kettlewell; Mrs. Coaxer - Catherine Lawson; Dolly Trull - Gladys Parr; Mrs. Slammekin - Elisabeth Parry; Molly Brazen - Anne Sharp; Betty Doxy - Mildred Watson; Harry Paddington - Roy Ashton; Ben Budge - Denis Dowling; Wat Dreary - John Highcock; Mat of the Mint - Norman Lumsden; Jemmy Twitcher - Norman Platt; Niinming Ned - Max Worthley.

Conducted by : Benjamin Britten and Ivan Clayton. Produced by : Tyrone Guthrie. Assistant Producer : Basil Coleman. Scenery and Costumes by : Tanya Moiseiwitsch.

This score presents a version of " The Beggar's Opera " that was made in 1948 for performance by The English Opera Group.

The original edition of John Gay's ballad-opera included sixty-nine songs, or bits of songs, and much more dialogue than is printed here. Only three of his songs are omitted from this version ; the com­plete text of the original play is available from The English Opera Group.

The production of this new version sprang from a hint given in the original Prologue to the play, which stated that the opera had previously been performed in the beggar's " great room at Saint Giles ", to celebrate the marriage of two ballad-singers. Accordingly the producer and the composer planned to stage the opera in this ` great room,' which they imagined as a laundry frequented by beggars, who worked there in return for food and warmth.

A permanent setting of this laundry was the scene of the performance : all changes of scene were made by the swift adjustment of screens and furniture in full view of the audience. This was done by the beggars for whose entertainment the opera was being given, and who took part in the action as stage-audience, as chorus and as small part performers.

This way of presenting the opera demanded the rewriting of some parts of the text, and the insertion of a few extra speeches. The additional dialogue was written by the producer, Mr. Tyrone Guthrie.

Musical Numbers

Act I

  1. Through all the employments of life (Peachum)
  2. 'Tis woman that seduces all mankind (Filch)
  3. If any wench Venus's girdle wear (Mrs. Peachum)
  4. If love the virgin's heart invade (Mrs. Peachum)
  5. A maid is like the golden ore (Mrs. Peachum)
  6. Virgins are like the fair flower (Polly)
  7. Our Polly is a sad slut ! (Mrs. Peachum and Omnes)
  8. Can love be controll'd by advice ? (Polly)
  9. O Polly, you might have toy'd and kissed (Polly, Mrs. Peachum and Omnes)
  10. I, like a ship in storms, was tossed (Polly) 
  11. A fox may steal your hens, Sir (Peachum and Mrs. Peachum)
  12. Oh, ponder well ! be not severe (Polly)
  13. The turtle thus with plaintive crying (Polly) 
  14. Pretty Polly, say (Polly, Macheath and Omnes)
  15. My heart was so free (Macheath)  
  16. Were I laid on Greenland's coast (Polly, Macheath and Omnes)
  17. 0 what pain it is to part ! (Polly) 
  18. The miser thus a shilling sees (Polly, Macheath)
  19. Fill ev'ry glass (Men of the Town)
  20. Let us take the road (Men of the Town)
  21. If the heart of a man is depressed with cares (Macheath)  
  22. Youth's the season rnade for joys (Macheath and Ladies of the Town)
  23. Before the barn-door crowing (Jenny Diver and Ladies of the Town)
  24. The gamesters and lawyers are jugglers alike (Ladies of the Town)
  25. At the tree I shall suffer with pleasure (Macheath) 

Act II

  1. Man may escape from rope and gun (Macheath)
  2. Thus when a good housewife sees a rat (Lucy)
  3. How cruel are the traytors (Lucy) 
  4. The first time at the looking-glass (Macheath)
  5. When you censure the age (Lockit)
  6. Is then his fate decreed, Sir ? (Lucy and Lockit)
  7. Thus when the Swallow (Polly) 
  8. How happy could I be with either (Lucy, Polly, Macheath)  
  9. Cease your funning (Polly and Omnes)
  10. Why how now, Madam Flirt ! (Lucy and Polly)
  11. No power on earth can e'er divide (Lucy, Polly, Macheath, Peachum, Lockit and Omnes)


  1. When young at the bar (Lucy)  
  2. My love is all madness and folly (Lucy) 
  3. Thus gamesters united in friendship (Lockit)
  4. The modes of the court so common are grown (Macheath and Omnes)
  5. What gudgeons are we men ! (Lockit and Peachum) 
  6. In the days of my youth (Mrs. Trapes, Lockit and Peachum) 
  7. In the days of my youth (Mrs. Trapes . . .exit)
    I'm like a skiff on the ocean tossed (Lucy)  
  8. A curse attends a woman's love (Lucy, Polly)    
  9. Among the men, coquets we find (Polly)  
  10. Come, sweet lass (Lucy)
  11. Hither, dear husband (Lucy, Polly)  
  12. Which way shall I turn me ? (Macheath)  
  13. When my hero in court appears (Polly)
  14. When he holds up his hand (Lucy)  
  15. Ourselves, like the great (Lockit and Peachum)
  16. The charge is prepared (Omnes)
  17. O cruel, cruel case ! (Macheath)
  18. Would I might be hanged (Lucy, Polly, Macheath) 
  19. Thus I stand like the Turk (Omnes)


Characters of the Opera

BEGGAR - Speaking role
MRS. PEACHUM - Mezzo-soprano
POLLY - Mezzo-soprano
FILCH - Tenor (or speaking role)
LOCKIT - Baritone
MRS. TRAPES - Contralto

Ladies of the Town divided into Sopranos, Mezzo-sopranos and Contraltos.


Gentlemen of the Road divided equally into Tenors, Baritones and Basses.



Flute (doubling Piccolo), Oboe (doubling Cor Anglais), Clarinet,Bassoon, Horn, Percussion, Harp, String Quartet, Double Bass.