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Movie review: The Beggar’s Opera (1983)

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*** The Beggar’s Opera (1983) – Rental

Roger Daltrey, Janet Baker, Carol Hall. BBC adaptation of John Gay’s 18th century opera about greed, lust, and corruption among the working class of London.

Roger Daltrey in John Gay's The Beggar's OperaShe says: Sometimes, when I get a new movie from zip.ca, I can’t even recall why I wanted to see it in the first place, but with this one it was obvious: It stars Roger Daltrey. Furthermore, unlike many movies featuring Mr. Daltrey, it was supposed to be decent.

Still, it is an opera, and it does run 2 hours 15 minutes. I didn’t actually watch it all at once, but in segments, over a weekend.

Though he’s the lead character, MacHeath, Daltrey doesn’t appear for the first 50 minutes of the movie. His character is being discussed (or sung about) that whole time, but in a way that just left me baffled: First, Polly’s parents are upset she’s married MacHeath—they see it as a wasted opportunity. But then she sings about how much she loves him, and they’re OK with it. Briefly. But next thing you know, they want him dead. They suggest Polly kill him, but she’s not down with that idea, so the parents conclude they’ll have to do it themselves.

Then the parents leave, MacHeath arrives, Polly tells him he needs to run away, but instead they just make out.

So here I paused the DVD and went to look up a Wikipedia synopsis. And not just to figure out what the heck had just happened; I decided I might as well look ahead at what was to come as well. Plot, after all, isn’t really the point of opera.

So from that point on, I was able to follow along despite the thick Cockney accents, and found it be a pretty enjoyable piece.

My raison d’être for watching the movie, Mr. Daltrey, looked very fine indeed, all long curly very blonde hair, blue eyes, and tanned—definitely the prettiest thing in the movie. He sounded good, too. Now, I don’t what MacHeath’s songs were supposed to sound like, and Daltrey certainly doesn’t have the “traditional” operatic voice that some of his co-stars do, but he is one those rock stars who actually can sing, on-key and with power and control. His acting also seemed just fine; one of MacHeath’s major problems is balancing the many, many women who find him irresistible (and that he, in turn, also can’t resist), and perhaps, just perhaps, Daltrey was able to draw on his own rock-star life to depict what that’s like.

And as opera’s go, it all moved along pretty quickly, and was quite entertaining, with its plot of lust and deceit, with crimes and lies a-plenty. Though none of the characters were that sympathetic, in the end, except, perhaps, Polly.

The only disappointment was that, having read the synopsis, I was looking forward to seeing the opera’s trick ending played out. Only, this movie had a trick ending to the trick ending.

He says: Thanks for not making me watch that one.

3 thoughts on “Movie review: The Beggar’s Opera (1983)

  1. There are indecent movies with Roger Daltrey? Do tell! But seriously, I did not know about this one. Thanks!

    • Heh! 🙂
      (But, well, he is naked a lot in both McVicar and Listzomania. McVicar is pretty good – though the British penal system seems almost amusingly gentile compared to how US prisons are usually depicted on-screen. Listzomania is nuts. Kind of entertaining, but nuts.)

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