university of oregon theatre

Setting Brecht: Daniel Daly’s new ‘Mother Courage’ music

Eugene composer creates a 21st century score for University of Oregon’s production of Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s political classic


Mother Courage and Her Children without music is like Shakespeare without poetry,” says University of Oregon theater professor Michael Malek Najjar. Though Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 anti-war play is not a musical, music is key to telling the “cautionary tale about the mendacity of capitalism dressed up as patriotism leading to war.” Najjar says the play requires military marches, piano ballads, haunting elegies and more.

For next month’s University of Oregon Theatre production of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner’s 2006 contemporary English adaptation, Najjar wanted a new score from a composer who would be “both classically trained and theatrically oriented to find a balance between the classical and contemporary musical needs of such a production.”

UO’s ‘Mother Courage’: Kattrin (Madeline Williams), Swiss Cheese (Julian Steinberg), and The Chaplain (Deshaun Valentino-Vegas) are scolded by Mother Courage (Penta Swanson). Photo: Charlianne Elsdon.

He found an ideal candidate on campus in Daniel Daly, a doctoral student in the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance composition studio with whom he had collaborated on the University Theatre’s production of Scorched.

“I have always been fascinated with his deep understanding of music, his incredible sense of how music can create dramatic mood, and his astonishingly beautiful compositional style,” Najjar explains. Unlike Scorched, which required music that underscored dramatic scenes, Mother Courage requires a composer to match their musical form to Brechtian lyrics… and adjust their own rhythms to match Brecht (and Kushner’s) idiosyncratic styles. Daniel is a great theatrical collaborator and has always created music that elevates our productions.”