Go inside this production of Wozzeck with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
Scene 1. As Wozzeck shaves his captain, the officer regales the uneducated soldier with his philosophical ramblings about the passage of time. Wozzeck finds little to add to the conversation until the captain accuses him of having no morals. Wozzeck replies that he is too poor to be virtuous.
Scene 2. Wozzeck and Andres, another soldier, gather firewood in a field. Wozzeck’s fears and imaginings disconcert his friend.
Scene 3. Marie, Wozzeck’s mistress, plays with their child. She exchanges glances with the drum major, who passes in the street at the head of his regiment. Margret, a neighbor who witnesses the scene, angers Marie with malicious comments. Marie sings a lullaby to the child, who soon falls asleep. Wozzeck comes to tell her that he must spend the night at the barracks. He takes no notice of the child, and his disjointed conversation fills Marie with foreboding.
Scene 4. In the doctor’s study the following day, Wozzeck submits to mockery and experiments in order to earn extra money to support Marie and their child. The doctor rejoices at signs of impending insanity and openly gloats about the fame that will come to him as a result of these experiments.
Scene 5. That evening, Marie admires the drum major in the street in front of her house. After a brief flirtation, she takes him inside.
Scene 1. In her house, Marie delights in a pair of earrings the drum major has given her. When Wozzeck arrives, he asks her where she got them. Her lie – that she found them – does not convince him. He gives her some money and leaves.
Scene 2. The captain and the doctor meet. A perfunctory diagnosis of apoplexy momentarily terrifies the captain. When Wozzeck happens to appear, the two men make insinuating remarks about Marie’s fidelity.
Scene 3. On the street in front of her house, Marie quarrels with Wozzeck. When he is about to strike her, she cries out that she would rather be killed than submit to his abuse. Wozzeck broods on her last words.
Scene 4. Wozzeck sees Marie dancing with the drum major in a tavern. Before Wozzeck can give vent to his jealousy, the dance ends, and he is distracted by the drunken soldiers with a song and a mock sermon. As the dancing resumes, a simpleminded man approaches Wozzeck and declares that he smells blood.
Scene 5. In the barracks, Wozzeck’s misery keeps him from sleeping. An obsessive vision of a knife makes him cry out, awakening Andres. The drum major, drunk, enters boasting of his conquest. He starts a fight with Wozzeck and beats him savagely.
Scene 1. Marie reads from the Bible. She is stricken with remorse and premonitions of her own death.
Scene 2. Wozzeck and Marie walk beside a pond. She is terrified by his strange behavior and tries to escape, but he kills her.
Scene 3. In a tavern, Wozzeck tries to forget his crime. He dances with Margret, who notices blood on his hands. Wozzeck stammers incriminating excuses and dashes out into the night.
Scene 4. Returning to the pond, Wozzeck searches for the knife. He finds it near Marie’s body and throws the weapon into the water. Confused and fearing he may not have thrown it far enough, Wozzeck wades into the pond and drowns. As the captain and the doctor stroll by, they hear a strange noise. The superstitious captain hurries the doctor away from the eerie spot without investigating.
Scene 5. A group of children are playing when another child runs in to give the news of Marie’s death. The children run off to view the body. Marie’s son, too young to understand, continues playing.
I know that a great many people have asked themselves the question, “Is opera really for me?” People go gladly to the movies or the theater, yet at the same time they may seem reluctant to give opera a try. I want to persuade you that opera is indeed for you, and this opera, Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, in particular. Experiencing it at Lyric Opera, you’ll discover theater set to some of the most powerful, gripping, and beautiful music ever written.
Of course, this isn’t a particularly cheery work – there’s no getting around that. It’s a dark, gripping story, full of unnerving emotional depths. On the other hand, the impact of Wozzeck will leave you stunned and deeply moved. If you love great drama, whether onstage or onscreen, Wozzeck is your perfect entry point to opera.
Wozzeck overwhelmed me for the first time more than 40 years ago. I remember seeing it as a teenager at Covent Garden in London, at a time when I was beginning to get completely hooked on the glories of this art form. I’d never experienced anything like Wozzeck, and it remains a piece that, in my view, makes a unique impact. It’s very short, and both dramatic and romantic at the same time. The brilliance with which every scene is constructed, the devastation of the title character in understanding the betrayal of the woman he loves, the final catastrophe that overtakes them both – all of this stays with you forever. It unfolds to riveting, astoundingly imaginative music.
Conducting Wozzeck requires the abilities of a superbly skilled and profoundly expressive musician. We’re exceedingly fortunate that our music director, Sir Andrew Davis, will be on the podium for this production. Berg’s music is one of his great passions, and he’s conducted it all over the world with great distinction. The only major work of Berg that Sir Andrew has yet to conduct is Wozzeck, which he has longed to do for many years. It will be enormously exciting for all of us to share what is unquestionably a hugely significant milestone in his operatic career.
Sir David McVicar is an immensely distinguished director whose work has been seen at Lyric repeatedly and with consistently outstanding success over a period of nearly 15 years. When Sir David discussed his approach to Wozzeck with me, I was impressed by the fact that he is treating it as a romantic story. He has set the opera at the end of World War I, in the aftermath of that great destructive conflict, presenting characters affected in widely different ways by the traumas of contemporary society.
Lyric has welcomed the greatest artists in the world for more than six decades. While giving extraordinarily talented young singers major opportunities (notably members of our Ryan Opera Center, several of whom are performing in Wozzeck), we continue to relish visits from eminent artists internationally and give them rewarding opportunities for Lyric debuts. No fewer than five important European singers in Wozzeck – Tomasz Konieczny, Angela Denoke, Stefan Vinke, Gerhard Siegel, and Brindley Sherratt – are all new to Lyric this season, and I couldn’t be more excited about that.
After seeing and hearing Wozzeck at Lyric, I know you’ll agree with me that the superb talents involved in this new production have created an unforgettable piece of music theater, doing full justice to the genius of Alban Berg.
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