Alban Berg

Wozzeck

Alban Berg - Wozzeck
(Complete 1970 film version) [English Subtitles]

Wozzeck: Toni Blankenheim
Marie: Sena Jurinac
Drum Major: Richard Cassilly
Andres: Peter Haage
Captain: Gerhard Unger
Doctor: Hans Sotin
Workman I: Kurt Moll
Workman II: Franz Grundheber
Idiot: Kurt Marschner
Margret: Elisabeth Steiner
Marie's son: Martina Schumacher

The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra
The Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera

Conducted by Bruno Maderna

Directed for television by Joachim Hess

Set design: Herbert Kirchhoff
Costumes: Helmut Jürgens

Wozzeck is the first opera by the Austrian composer Alban Berg. It was composed between 1914 and 1922 and first performed in 1925. The opera is based on the drama Woyzeck, which was left incomplete by the German playwright Georg Büchner at his death. Berg attended the first production in Vienna of Büchner's play on 5 May 1914, and knew at once that he wanted to base an opera on it. From the fragments of unordered scenes left by Büchner, Berg selected fifteen to form a compact structure of three acts with five scenes each. He adapted the libretto himself, retaining "the essential character of the play, with its many short scenes, its abrupt and sometimes brutal language, and its stark, if haunted, realism..."

Wozzeck was conceived during World War I; its composition was completed immediately after that war; and it received its first stage performance, in Berlin, in 1925. It deeply stirred all of Middle Europe of that period. And that period was the period of Dr. Sigmund Freud, the period of Franz Kafka, the period of the rise of National Socialism. In music it was the period that saw the most violent breakdown of old ideas of melody—and, even more, of harmony. It was revolutionary, it was intellectually curious, it was unstable, and it reflected the sickness of the German soul.

 

Berg wrote his own libretto for Wozzeck, basing it on a hundred-year-old play written by a strange, youthful genius named Georg Buchner. It deals with the psychological torture and breakdown of a dull-witted militiaman named Johann Franz Wozzeck and with the tragic fate of his mistress and their illegitimate child. Charming theme, isn't it? And, possibly excepting these three unfortunates, there is scarcely one amiable person in the whole cast. Nevertheless, its entry into the Metropolitan Opera repertory in 1959 was a surprise popular success.
 

Roles

WOZZECK

Opera in three acts by Alban Berg
with libretto in German by the composer,
based on a play of the same name by Georg Buchner


Wozzeck, a soldier
Marie, his mistress

Their child

Andres, a friend of  Wozzeck's
Margret, a neighbor

The Captain

The Doctor

The Drum Major

Ferst and second workmen

A Fool


Time: about 1835
Place: Germany

First performance at Berlin, December 14, 1925

 

Wozzeck:

Baritone. A soldier, servant to the Captain. He has a son by Marie and the Captain taunts him about this. Wozzeck tells him that you have to be rich to have such high morals. Marie has an affair with the Drum-major and the next time Wozzeck meets him, the two men fight. In his jealousy, Wozzeck takes Marie for a walk by a lake in the woods. He kisses her then cuts her throat. Frightened when Marie’s friend Margret notices blood on his hands, he searches for the knife he used, throws it into the pond, then walks into the water and drowns himself. Wozzeck is a very simple fellow, not subtle or scheming. He has been aptly described by Stephen Walsh as a ‘representative of the downtrodden proletariat’. He does not find it easy to express himself or even to understand his own feelings (he was based on a true character, a soldier who was executed in 1824 for killing the mistress who had been unfaithful to him). Created (1925) by Leo Schiitzendorf.

Marie:

Soprano. Mother of Wozzeck's son. She is attracted by the Drum-major, making Wozzeck jealous. He kills her, throwing the knife he stabbed her with into a pond. Created (1925) by Sigrid Johanson.

Margret:

Contralto. Friend of Wozzeck's mistress Marie. She notices the blood on Wozzeck's hands after he has stabbed Marie to death. Created (1925) by Jessica Koettriss.

Andres:

Tenor. A soldier, friend of Wozzeck. Created (1925) by Gerhor Witting.

Captain:
Tenor. Capt. in the army. Wozzeck is his soldier‐servant. The Captain likes to moralize and philosophize. He taunts Wozzeck for being a father without being married. Created ( 1925 ) by Waldemar Henke 


 

Doctor:

Bass. Doctor in the army barracks. Uses Wozzeck for dietary experiments. Created ( 1925 ) by Martin Abendroth



 

Drum-major:

Tenor. He has an affair with Wozzeck's girl, Marie, and the two men fight. Created ( 1925 ) by Fritz Soot

Alban Berg - Wozzeck
Sabine Theunissen (set deigns)
Dir. William Kentridge
Salzburger Festspiele 2017

ACT I
 

Scene 1 finds Wozzeck shaving his captain, for whom he is a personal servant, while the captain philosophizes in a mildly idiotic way. (The part is written for a very high tenor voice.) Wozzeck answers at first stupidly, mechanically Jawohl, Herr

Hauptmann—“Certainly, Captain,”—but finally he comes out with an incoherent complaint about his poverty.
 

Scene 2 Wozzeck shares this scene with another high tenor —his companion-in-arms, Andres. Andres is inclined to be cheerful, but Wozzeck imagines he sees various supernatural things in the field where they are working.

 

Berg - Wozzeck - Act I

Wozzeck: Franz Grundheber
Marie: Hildegard Behrens
Der Tambourmajor: Walter Raffeiner
Andres: Philip Langridge
Der Hauptmann: Heinz Zednik
Der Doktor: Aage Haugland
Marguerete: Anna Gonda

Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
Conducted by Claudio Abbado

Sung in German
Presented with English subtitles

Stage Director: Adolf Dresen
Chorus Master: Helmuth Froschauer
Costume Designer: Helmuth Kappelmüller
Video Director: Briane Large

Recorded in 1987 at the Vienna State Opera

Character

Synopsis
 

ACT I
 

Scene 3 In her room Marie, Wozzeck's mistress, is playing with their child. She sees a parade of soldiers passing and admires the Drum Major; she is jeered at by a neighbor, Margret, for her easy virtue; she sings a lullaby to the child. When Wozzeck passes by, he frightens her with an account of the supernatural things he thinks he has seen. Something dreadful, he feels, is going to happen.

ACT I
 

Scene 4 Next day, in the regimental doctor’s office, Wozzeck is being examined. The Doctor is a kind of amateur psychiatrist—not to say a bit of a sadist. This crazy, incompetent man implants the idea in Wozzeck’s mind that he is bad, that he may be going crazy. As the scene ends, he boasts to himself that he will become famous through what he is doing to poor Wozzeck.
 

Scene 5 Marie meets the Drum Major in the street. He is a handsome fellow, she notes. He agrees. He starts to make love to her. It is a quick conquest—and they disappear into her house.
William Kentridge and Sabine Theunissen > Alban Berg's "Lulu" @ The Dutch National Opera

ACT II
 

Scene 1 Marie preens herself on the pair of earrings that the Drum Major has given her. When Wozzeck enters, he notes the new earrings and is suspicious. Yet he is still upset in his mind about other things, and he is sorry for the child, who lies asleep with a slight fever. Almost absent-mindedly he gives Marie his wages. When he has left, she scolds herself for her wickedness.
 

Berg - Wozzeck - Act 2

Wozzeck: Franz Grundheber
Marie: Hildegard Behrens
Der Tambourmajor: Walter Raffeiner
Andres: Philip Langridge
Der Hauptmann: Heinz Zednik
Der Doktor: Aage Haugland
Marguerete: Anna Gonda

Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
Conducted by Claudio Abbado

Sung in German
Presented with English subtitles

Stage Director: Adolf Dresen
Chorus Master: Helmuth Froschauer
Costume Designer: Helmuth Kappelmüller
Video Director: Briane Large

Recorded in 1987 at the Vienna State Opera

ACT II
 

Scene 2 In the street the Captain meets the Doctor, who frightens his friend by telling him he looks bad. “You might find yourself partially paralyzed one day,” he remarks unsympathetically. But a better target for his malice passes by. It is poor Wozzeck. The two officers make unmistakable references to Marie’s unfaithfulness, and the Doctor suggests that Wozzeck is also pretty sick.

 

ACT II
 

Scene 3 Encountering Marie in the street, Wozzeck accuses her in wild terms. She begs him not to hit her. Rather, she cries, she would prefer a knife in her heart. And as she runs off, Wozzeck repeats her phrase mutteringly: "Rather a knife ...”
 

The third painting depicts a wild party or orgy underway at a brothel. The prostitutes are stealing the drunken Tom's watch. On the floor at bottom right is a night watchman's staff and lantern-souvenirs of Tom's "Wild Night" on the town. The scene takes place at the Rose Tavern, a famous brothel in Covent Garden. The prostitutes have black spots on their faces to cover syphilitic sores.

ACT II
 

Scene 3 Encountering Marie in the street, Wozzeck accuses her in wild terms. She begs him not to hit her. Rather, she cries, she would prefer a knife in her heart. And as she runs off, Wozzeck repeats her phrase mutteringly: "Rather a knife ...”

 

ACT II
 

Scene 4 At the beer garden everyone is in high spirits and slightly boozy. Wozzeck joins the crowd, sees Marie dancing with the Drum Major, and is about to attack him. But the dance stops, and a soldier begins a drunken song. Someone else delivers a crazy sermon. A fool starts talking to Wozzeck. And as he sits there listening, his feeble brain seems to weaken even more.
 

ACT II
 

Scene 5 Wozzeck is moaning in his sleep, in the barracks. Andres awakens and hears him talk about a knife blade. Then, enter the Drum Major, who boasts about his conquests. Wozzeck, maddened by jealousy, attacks him. But the Drum Major is a big fellow, and Wozzeck is badly beaten up. Having done his job, the Drum Major leaves. The other soldiers heartlessly shrug theii shoulders, turn around, and go to sleep.
 

Berg - Wozzeck - Act 3

Wozzeck: Franz Grundheber
Marie: Hildegard Behrens
Der Tambourmajor: Walter Raffeiner
Andres: Philip Langridge
Der Hauptmann: Heinz Zednik
Der Doktor: Aage Haugland
Marguerete: Anna Gonda

Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
Conducted by Claudio Abbado

Sung in German
Presented with English subtitles

Stage Director: Adolf Dresen
Chorus Master: Helmuth Froschauer
Costume Designer: Helmuth Kappelmüller
Video Director: Briane Large

Recorded in 1987 at the Vienna State Opera

ACT III
 

Scene 1 is entirely Marie’s. She is alone with her child and full of guilt. She reads from the Bible, first the story of the woman taken in adultery and then the story of Mary Magdalene. And she prays to God for mercy.
 

ACT III
 

Scene 2 takes us to a pool in the forest outside the town at night, where Wozzeck is with Marie. He makes her sit beside him; he kisses her; and he mutters earnestly of love. Then he whispers mysteriously to himself, and there is a long silence. Suddenly Marie notices that the moon is red. "Like a blood-red iron,” says Wozzeck, and he draws out his knife. Terrified, Marie tries to escape. But he madly plunges the knife deep into her throat; and when she is dead, he rushes away.

 

ACT III
 

Scene 3 It is to a tavern that he rushes. More than half drunk, he sings madly, and dances with Margret, Marie’s neighbor. Suddenly she notices blood on his hand, and she cries out. Everyone crowds around and sees the blood, but Wozzeck runs out as fast as he can.

 

ACT III
 

Scene 4 Back he rushes to the scene of his murder. He must get rid of his bloody knife, and when he finds it, he flings it into the pool. But then he fears it may be found after all and the blame pinned on him. Completely befuddled, he wades deep into the pool. He fishes for the knife with his hands; he topples over; and he drowns. The Doctor and the Captain, passing by, think they hear a noise. But they decide it was only the lapping of the water, and they leave the ghostly night scene.

ACT III
 

Scene 5 It is bright sunshine the next morning, and outside of Marie’s house children are playing ring-around-a-rosy.
Among them is Marie’s little boy. Anothet group of children comes in, bursting with news. One of them shouts to the little boy: "Hey, your mother is deadl” But the child does not hear. He is playing horse. And when the others rush off to see the body, which has been discovered near the pool, the child just goes on riding his hobbyhorse. "Hop-hop, hop-hop!” he cries.

Alban Berg
(1885-1935)