Jeremy specialises in English popular and dance music from 1550 to 1750, and also has a particular interest in the illustration of music and social dance over the centuries.

The Beggar’s Opera

Lecture with digital slides and high quality recorded music

The Beggar’s Opera: Britain’s most successful musical show

John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera became London’s longest-running theatrical hit when first produced in 1728, and it was on the stage every year for the rest of the 18th century. The work set out as a deliberate contrast to the Italian operas by Handel and others that had dominated musical theatre in London for nearly twenty years. The popularity of The Beggar’s Opera continued for much of the 19th century, and a revival at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1920 again broke theatrical records, running for nearly 1,500 performances. The Beggar’s Opera inspired several adaptations internationally, most famously the Brecht/Weill Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera). The lecture examines the show’s appeal and influence over the centuries.

The Beggars Opera


The Beggar’s Operacomplete recording, Hyperion CDA 66591/2, with Bob Hoskins as the Beggar, Sarah Walker. The recording won an Edison Award.

The Beggar’s Opera: Original Songs and Airs, Harmonia Mundi. The CD traces the history of nine tunes used by Gay for his songs in the show.

Jeremy Barlow arranged the music of The Beggar’s Opera for the BBC TV production directed by Jonathan Miller, with a cast including Roger Daltrey as Macheath and Bob Hoskins as the Beggar. DVD: Metrodome MTDS 5192; issued previously on videotape and laserdisc.


The Music of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, arranged and edited according to 18th-century practice (Oxford University Press, hardback and paperback editions. Orchestral material for hire. The full introduction and commentary from the hardback edition (now out of print), is downloadable as a PDF.


The Beggar’s Opera in London’s Theatres, 1728-61, in The Stage’s Glory: John Rich, 1692-1761, ed. Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow, Lanham, MD: University of Delaware Press, 2011.

Published Arrangements of The Beggar’s Opera, 1729-1990, Musical Times, October 1990.