Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

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Composer Alban Berg (1885-1935) saw the play, then re-named Wozzeck, in Vienna during the spring of 1914 and immediately decided to set it to music. It would become his first opera, but a stint in the military during World War One intervened. He began to work on it while still in uniform, however. In 1918, he wrote to his wife: 'I have been spending the war dependent on people I hate. I have been in chains, ill, captive, resigned, in fact, humiliated.' Despite his always fragile health, he was not discharged from military service until the war ended in November of 1918.

Franz Hawlata as Wozzeck and  Nina Warren as Marie in the San Diego Opera production of 'Wozzeck'. Photo © 2007 Cory Weaver
Franz Hawlata as Wozzeck and Nina Warren as Marie in the San Diego Opera production of 'Wozzeck'. Photo © 2007 Cory Weaver

He completed the opera in 1918 but was not able to get it staged at that time. It was not seen until the young Erich Kleiber took up his cause and premièred it on 14 December 1925, at the Staatsoper in Berlin. An immediate success, it was performed in seventeen German cities and in a number of other countries before it was banned by the Nazis in 1933.

Jay Hunter Morris as The Drum Major and  Nina Warren as Marie in the San Diego Opera production of 'Wozzeck'. Photo © 2007 Ken Howard
Jay Hunter Morris as The Drum Major and Nina Warren as Marie in the San Diego Opera production of 'Wozzeck'. Photo © 2007 Ken Howard

San Diego Opera presented Berg's Wozzeck on 17 April 2007. Since this was American Tony-winning director Des McAnuff's début opera production, as well as the first time the San Diego audience was to see it, the work was sung in English. German bass Franz Hawlata is a highly esteemed interpreter of this role in the original German. Singing it in easily understandable English added one more success to his growing list. Equally effective in the role of Marie was Nina Warren. She is a fine actress with a voice that can cut through this opera's huge orchestra and it's easy to see why she has a place in the first rank of dramatic sopranos. Best of all, she was able to scale her voice down and sing tenderly to the child.

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Copyright © 13 May 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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