'... as vivid a projection of impending world doom as any to come out of the Great War ...' - Glenn Watkins
Alban Berg's first opera, Wozzeck (1914-22) received its first performance on 14 December 1925 at Berlin State Opera. It's based on Georg Büchner's drama Woyzeck, which the German playright wasn't able to finish before his death. Berg was at the first production in Vienna of Büchner's play on 5 May 1914, was immediately inspired to create an opera from Büchner's material, and prepared the opera libretto himself from fragments of Büchner's scenes, depicting the everyday life of a rural town in a German-speaking country, emphasising callousness, casual sadism, militarism and social exploitation.
The opera is generally known as the first to be produced in twentieth century avant-garde style, and is also famous for its free atonality (expressing emotion) and sprechtgesang. It also uses simple motifs - a tritone expresses Wozzeck and Marie's permanent struggle, a minor third indicates the links between Marie and the child, and the music returns to particular pitches to mark key moments in the plot.
Berg avoid classic operatic forms, such as arias and trios, and instead used forms normally associated with abstract instrumental and orchestral music, including a suite, a rhapsody, a symphony (in five movements), a fantasia, a triple fugue, inventions and a passacaglia.
A selection of M&V articles about Wozzeck
Ensemble. The Humanity of Wozzeck - Alban Berg from Salzburg, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Towards the Abyss - Alban Berg's 'Wozzeck' at La Scala, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. A High Level - German operas at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest, experienced by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Santa Fe, The City Different - Maria Nockin enjoys the summer opera fare in North America's oldest capital city
Ensemble. Full of Irony - Shostakovich's 'The Nose', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Performance to Cherish - Lawrence Budmen submits a further report from the Tanglewood Festival 2010
Ensemble. Seldom Performed - 'Lulu' lands at La Scala, by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Compelling Vocal Drama - Lawrence Budmen listens to Measha Brueggergosman and the New World Symphony
Arts and the Colour of Politics - Béla Hartmann muses on growing social equality and democratization
Ensemble. Sing ye to the Lord - Roderic Dunnett was at the 2009 Hereford Three Choirs Festival
Limitless Combinatorics - Eric Pettine postulates 'No Shortage of Melodies Anytime Soon', and offers some real hope for cynical musicians who think they've heard it all
Ensemble. Worldly Forces - Alban Berg's 'Wozzeck' at San Diego Opera, reviewed by Maria Nockin
DVD Spotlight. Simple Attractions - Berg's 'Wozzeck', reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... quite convincing enough ...'