Opera Scotland

Wozzeck

Music
Alban Berg (born Vienna, 9 February 1885; died Vienna, 24 December 1935).

Text
The composer.

Source
Unfinished play Woyzeck (1836) by Georg Büchner (1813-37).

 

Premières
First performance: Berlin (Staatsoper), 14 December 1925.
First UK performance (concert): London (Queen’s Hall), 14 March 1934.
First UK performance (stage): London (Covent Garden), 22 January 1952.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), August 1959.
Scottish Opera première: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 28 August 1980.

 

Background
Berg began work on Wozzeck before the First World War, and long before its eventual performance it was the object of controversy because of its modernity and musical structure. It fits in neatly with contemporary forms of expressionist art. The opera is structured in three acts, each with five short scenes, and Berg makes use of a number of traditional musical forms such as passacaglia, sonata and rondo. These details are fascinating in themselves, but are useful for an audience simply because it gives a sense of unity and momentum which make Wozzeck one of the greatest of twentieth century operas, and a thrilling theatrical experience by any standards.

Wozzeck has so far only received four groups of performances in Scotland, three of those at the Edinburgh Festival. However, all in their way were rather special. The 1959 Stockholm production by Göran Gentele featured Elisabeth Söderström as Marie. In 1966, the Stuttgart company brought Günter Rennert’s staging, conducted by Carlos Kleiber. Scottish Opera’s production, directed by David Alden and conducted by Alexander Gibson, increased tension further by playing without an interval. A revival of this production in 1983, with most of the same cast, this time singing in English, featured the only staged operatic performances in Scotland conducted by Simon Rattle.

 

Main Characters
Wozzeck, a soldier (baritone)
The Captain (tenor)
Andres, a soldier (tenor)
Marie (soprano)
The Doctor (bass)
The Drum-Major (tenor)

 

Plot Summary
Wozzeck shaves the captain, who criticises him for his immoral lifestyle, but Wozzeck takes the view that he can’t afford such luxuries. Wozzeck tells his friend Andres of some visions he has had, sensing something ominous, but Andres is unimpressed. Marie, who has a child by Wozzeck, is now attracted to the Drum-Major, and eventually admits him to her room. The Doctor, who is delighted by the supposed mental fragility revealed by his visions, is using Wozzeck for medical experiments. Wozzeck becomes suspicious when he sees the earrings Marie has received from the Drum-Major, but he gives her his pay anyway, which makes her feel guiltier. The Doctor and Captain meet Wozzeck in the street and taunt him about Marie’s infidelity, but she denies it when Wozzeck accuses her. At the inn, Marie dances with the Drum-Major, arousing Wozzeck’s jealousy. Back at barracks, he is beaten up by the Drum-Major. Marie is much preoccupied with the biblical episode of the woman taken in adultery. When they go for a walk, Wozzeck stabs her and puts her body in the lake. He then gets drunk, and on returning to the lake to dispose of the knife, he drowns.

The Cast

Andres
 a soldier, Wozzeck's friend
Captain
 
Doctor
 
Drum Major
 
First Workman
 
Idiot
 
Margret
 Marie's friend
Marie
 Wozzeck's woman
Marie's child
 
Second Workman
 
Soldier
 
Wozzeck
 a soldier

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