Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Wozzeck. It was last on stage 31 October—15 November 2013 as part of the Autumn 2013/14 season.
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.
News and features
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5 December 2014
Curses, seduction and murder – why are operatic parties always doomed to end in tears?
22 July 2014
Schonberg's Moses und Aron may seem daunting, but dip a toe in the water and you might be pleasantly surprised.
24 April 2014
Operatic characters often look to the heavens, in thanks or in anguished supplication.
1 November 2013
What did you think of Keith Warner's production of Alban Berg's dark and tragic opera?
30 October 2013
Conductor Mark Elder's introduction to Berg's opera, as well as a look at how the composer used the vocal technique of Sprechgesang.
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..."Though its musical style is challenging, the quality of Berg's work (in particular, the characterization of the situation through clearly defined musical techniques) amply repays repeated listenings. A typical performance of the work takes slightly over an hour and a half. The subject matter—the inevitability of hardship and exploitation for the poor—is brutally and uncompromisingly presented.