The Threepenny Opera is based on an earlier work, John Gay's 1728 The Beggar's Opera. The title refers to a small amount of money, three pennies or three coins. All of the characters are scrapping for money, and we think they would be willing to sell their souls for just three pennies. So, right from the title, Brecht is telling the audience that they're in for something completely different. This isn't going to be one of those fancy-schmancy affairs with women in golden Viking helmets, belting out arias. This is going to be a down and dirty affair.