"The Beggar’s Opera," re-imagined in mob-infested New Jersey, plays Nov. 18, 20

Vincent Grana
Vincent Grana in The Beggar’s Opera

Opera hits the mean streets of Jersey in an updated and re-imagined production of John Gay’s 1728 English ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera. The biting political satire, subtitled ‘Mac the Knife’ Meets ‘The Sopranos,’ will have two performances at Nicholas Music Center: Friday, November 18, and Sunday, November 20, 2011.

This Opera Institute at Rutgers production features “whores, pimps and thieves,” says Pamela Gilmore, producer. The opera also spotlights several familiar Central Jersey locations in an opening film sequence that apes that of the beloved HBO mob series The Sopranos. Look for New Jersey Turnpike Exit 9, as well as footage of Kirkpatrick Chapel and the Grease Trucks, both on the College Avenue Campus.

The Beggar’s Opera, which Gilmore says was so subversive that it ushered in strict censorship laws for British theater, is a collection of popular melodies of the day re-orchestrated by Benjamin Britten. Gay’s dialogue employs ribald humor—one piece is called Our Sally is a Slut—to parody Italian opera, with its focus on the well-to-do and fairy-tale endings. In contrast, Gilmore says, The Beggar’s Opera is “wickedly funny” and “down and dirty,” featuring in-your-face characters inspired by Tony Soprano and Victoria Gotti.

“These are the crime bosses of London,” Gilmore explains. “This is very gritty. It’s almost a little profane.”

The Beggar’s Opera runs 8 p.m. Friday, November 18, and 2 p.m. Sunday, November 20, 2011, at Nicholas Music Center, in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George St. at Ryders Lane, on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. Tickets are $10, $5 for students with valid I.D. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit, or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 732-932-7511.

Media Inquiries: Laurie Granieri, 732-932-7591, ext. 516.