WHAT was it made the Beggar's Opera in its own day so great a ' draw ' ? It is no good answering ' the political allusions,' for that ' day,' it must be remembered, lasted for a century or more, and sly hints at Ministers and Court soon ceased to be topical, just as the subject matter of a great deal of Gilbert and Sullivan has ceased to be topical. Nor is it. possible to suppose that, as drama, the thing caught the public imagination, for the actual plot is of the feeblest. Surely, Gay and Pepusch (who respectively wrote the libretto and collected and fitted the tunes) captured and retained their public, just as 'Gilbert and Sullivan captured and retained theirs, by a happy mixture of frank farce and simple, but sound, tune. A good tune will go anywhere and last any length of time. Sullivan had to make his own tunes ; Pepusch could pick up such things in the street, for a good many of the sixty-nine he used were current coin everywhere in his day.
Since the Beggar's Opera was first heard, it has never been off the London stage for more than (say) twenty or thirty years at a time. In
1920 the Opera had a long run, under Mr. Nigel Playfair's direction, at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith ; and it has lately been revived again. Mr. Frederick Austin arranged the accompanimants, etc., for that production, and his arrangements are to be used this afternoon. His admirable work was more that of re-creation than of arrangement, and much of the Opera's success at Hammersmith' was due to his artistic production.
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