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Drivas 1

Nick Drivas

Aaron C. Thomas

Theatre History II

November 16, 2016

Word Count: 1592

Bar Songs and The Beggar’s Opera

Commonality attracts. It brings people together. Having similar backgrounds or relatable

characteristics and lifestyles allows for people to lower their barriers and come together as one

common group. This grouping is usually also paired in tandem with a common dislike or enemy.

Perhaps the most favored commonality, a common dislike or distaste can bring people together

much more strongly than any common interest or hobby. We have seen this proven in history,

and it is no different in the world of theatre. The Augustan ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera,

opened in 1728 as a piece that served as an “anti-opera” with no recitative and mainly popular

folk that tunes that were familiar to audiences. In 18th century England and Scotland, the popular

music utilized in The Beggar’s Opera derived mainly from bar rooms where men would

drunkenly sing together and bond from it. This bonding brought these people together. It could

be argued that this brotherhood and camaraderie that originated in these bar rooms was

recognized and then harnessed to make a likable and familiar quality to The Beggar’s Opera.

This “anti-opera” satirized Italian opera, had characters that were ordinary people, and had

hummable folk tunes as the constant sound of the piece. This combination made The Beggar’s

Opera a true vernacular piece that attracted the ordinary man who initially could only find his

sought-after sense of camaraderie in the bar rooms away from his wife. Now, he could create an

Drivas 2 appropriate outing that would satisfy his individual wants as a man all while spending time with his wife and appeasing her wants as well. and make singing in front of others not so scary. desirable. This unified camaraderie through bar songs brings everyone together without judgement or anxiety. this paper will propose and attempt to validate the idea that The Beggar’s Opera was written as a familiar vernacular piece that somewhat successfully attempted to create a utopian space within the theatre.” To a certain extent. or even more so. the more alcohol consumed. (Boileau 226) When enough of those people have achieved that point in one place at one time. and permits a single activity to maintain the desired “good” feeling caused by alcohol-induced dopamine release. While looking at traits of bar room drinking and its correlation to the urge its creates for people to sing together. the purposeful choice of bar room folk songs for The Beggar’s Opera. In many bar room situations. Each person has their own point of consumption where singing eventually becomes that necessary activity in oder to maintain that “good” feeling in a bar. they do not sing or express the desire wrapped in the fear of judgement or laughter. the more dopamine that is released.” and urges the consumer to continue seeking and performing activities that keeps making the body “feel good. taking in alcohol can relieve one of the inhibitions that clung so tightly initially. and the content and result of unity found from The Beggar’s Opera. This is caused by the release of dopamine in the brain which makes the body “feel good. Singing is a fun form of expression that many enjoy and can find to be a freeing experience. The vulnerability of the activity leads many to only enjoy it in the privacy of their own seclusion. In the company of others though. that’s where popular bar songs come into play. (Science Direct 219) .

Sir” actually replaced it source of origin. Drivas 3 It seems likely that this shared sense of camaraderie amongst men in these bar rooms was realized by Jon Gay probably through his own participation in Scottish and English taverns. This transition showed the impact of The Beggar’s Opera and reiterates the fact that . Sir.” This tune was written by John Eccles and William Congreve in 1695 and grew popularity in Scottish bar rooms. but kept the same tune and sung melody to maintain that desired sense of familiarly that would unify the audience and stage. a very important one of which would have to be “A Soldier and a Sailor. Gay extracted the original lyrics. (Bronson 537) With regards to “A Soldier and a Sailor. We must understand that this genre in its own height was primarily sung and popularized in the aforementioned bar room scenarios. Though. yet crucial inspiration and vessel to carry out his composition of The Beggar’s Opera. “A Fox May Steal Your Hens. It is argued that it served as a partial. is that it was the earliest composed folk song that Jon Gay used in The Beggar’s Opera.” John Gay made new lyrics. kept the melody.” as the popular bar room folk song of the English 18th century bar room. but past this. there were quite a number of popular bar songs that Gay may have encountered. It is also a perfect example of how he formulated the concept and form of this ballad opera with popular bar room folk songs. In 18th century England and Scotland. In order to have a linear and original story. and changed the title to: “A Fox May Steal Your Hens.” (Gay) This song was popular on the stage and was well received (along with controversial perception as well) along with the opera as a whole. The drunken brotherhood of the easily-sung melody stems into what we know now as the English and Scottish folk music in the early 18th century. The great importance of this particular song though. “A Soldier and a Sailor. These simple tunes with a simplistic structure and rhyming pattern are now classified and categorized as folk music.

The story satirized politics. The New York Times has described The Beggar’s Opera by saying: “Gay wrote the work more as an anti-opera than an opera. one of its attractions to its 18th-century London public being its lampooning of the Italian opera style and the English public's fascination with it. strove for the same unifying impact in the overall theme of the show: an “anti-opera. poverty and injustice. What Gay also wanted throughout the conception and launching of his ballad opera was for there to be no musical accompaniment to create an initial shock to establish the anti-opera and then to create the grit of the environment that Gay envisioned for The Beggar’s Opera. The Beggar’s Opera consisted of an ensemble cast of “ordinary” individuals who were dealing with issues in a plot filled with corrupt politics and societal issues that many working class citizens found more relatable to anything they had seen before. The audience could hum along with the music and identify with the characters. focusing on the theme of corruption at all levels of society. it also opens the opportunity of the audience embers to relate to each other. conceptually. and then after the show’s closing. Gay. Drivas 4 this opera successfully carried over and delivered the desired sense of “camaraderie" from the bar room to the theatre. but a week prior to the show’s . Instead of the grand music and themes of opera. the work uses familiar tunes and characters that were ordinary people. With the music and familiar songs of The Beggar’s Opera unifying the audience members.” He sought for the piece to satirize Italian opera in order to bond together the working class audience members. the legacy was left where content from The Beggar’s Opera took over the bar room scene as well. This was the initial intent.” (Kozzin) When audience members can relate to the characters on stage.

The Beggar’s Opera demonstrates and exhibits all of the factors and reinvents the ideals of the barroom into a more socially respectable outing that he could include his wife with and keep her from worrying about where he was spending his evenings. The addition of these political/social themes and relatable characters along with the previously discussed familiar barroom folk tunes continue to prove that The Beggar’s Opera makes for a theatrical experience of bonding and camaraderie within the audience that goes beyond the nature of the barroom that causes worrisome wives. Jon Rich. Drinking rose the popularity of these English and Scottish folk songs. Drivas 5 opening. The idea of Jon Gay using these popular songs in his opera seems to go beyond simply being hummable. though perhaps not the . but the show’s lasting impression seems to not have been affected regardless. The working class men would drink away their troubles of social and political corruption and their bond against this corrupt environment was expressed through the songs that they shared in the taverns. Both receive what they want and neither are upset with the other for either disappearing or scorning. but rather seems to be just the beginning in a great experiment of creating a utopian space within the theatre that demonstrates and includes all of what a male audience member would seek out of his evening along with the inclusion of his wife and the outing that she had so sought after. the theatre director of The Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre decided that there must be an overture and musical accompaniment that was to be arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. (Bronson 536) This addition was to the discontent of Jon Gay. The Beggar’s Opera. Jon Gay seized the opportunity to utilize these tunes in order to create a piece of theatre that unified an audience in the same way that a barroom unified a group of men.

seems to be the first successful attempt at creating a utopian space within the theatre. Robert O. Kozzin. 1978. “Eighteenth-Century Studies. 4. and Alain Dagher.1 (2006): 217-227. Chawki Benkelfat.' An 18th-Century Satire. "Alcohol Promotes Dopamine Release in the Human Nucleus Accumbens. Print. Bertrand H. Jean-Marc Assaad. Wiley. 535–538. vol. . Drivas 6 first attempt or the last. 2016. 'The Beggar's Opera.4 (2003): 226-31. Marco Leyton. Print. 1728. Pihl. Tremblay. pp. 4 Dec. www. Richard E. Gay. Works Cited Boileau. pag." The New York Times 10 May 1990. Isabelle.jstor. 4 Dec. John." Synapse 49. Arts sec. Bronson. Mirko 11. Allan. London: Printed for John Watts. Web. "Review/Music. Social Science & Medicine 62.: n. no. The Beggar's Opera. 2016.” Eighteenth-Century Studies. and Johann Christopher Pepusch. Web. Science Direct.