Wozzeck, a poor soldier, tries to support his girlfriend Marie and their young son, while battling mental illness. When the brutal Drum Major seduces Marie, Wozzeck is driven to violent action.
‘Man is an abyss – you feel giddy when you look into it.’ So declares Wozzeck in Alban Berg’s harrowing psychological drama. The title character is a disturbed man who is used for experimentation, taunted for his poverty and inarticulacy, and finally, in despair, driven to murder the only person he loves. The opera is based on the incomplete play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner. It was given its premiere in 1925 in Berlin and rapidly became extremely successful.
Berg’s music is both rapturous and terrifying. The score is richly varied, from the depiction of Wozzeck’s terrifying visions to Marie’s exquisitely gentle lullaby to her son, to the black comedy of the Doctor and the Captain’s music. Berg also draws heavily on folk song, giving a vivid picture of the working-class community in which the characters live. A white-tiled laboratory provides the claustrophobic setting for Keith Warner’s uncompromising staging. The production marked Warner’s directorial debut at Covent Garden and received an Olivier Award in 2003 for Best New Opera Production.
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