Last October, the Atlanta Opera became one of the country’s first opera groups to return to live performances, with two one-act operas staged under a tent set up on a baseball field. Of course, it was possible in part due to the state’s laissez-faire approach to coronavirus issues, but the company took extensive safety precautions, and no virus cases were traced to the presentations. Two more such Big Tent Productions are now underway, reduced-scale versions of Georges Bizet’s Carmen and The Threepenny Opera of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, the latter staged in a unique partnership with the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts.

“The puppetry center is an incredible jewel,” the opera’s General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun told Pasatiempo recently. “We had a short scene with puppets in Pagliacci last fall, in the commedia dell’arte section. Afterwards I told Jon Ludwig, its artistic director, that I was dying to do Threepenny Opera with puppets, and he said, ‘This is my favorite piece! Let’s make it happen.’”

The inspiration for using puppets came from an unusual source — Zvulun’s two young girls, who are big fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and its current spin-off, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. “The character of Brecht, who narrates the show in our version, is inspired by Rogers, because he had so many puppets on his show,” Zvulun said.

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