A pioneering work
Information & tickets »Wozzeck«
Whoever enters the Kammerspiele in Rotenturmstraße in Vienna's first district today may not even suspect that he or she is standing on music-historical ground. For it was here, in 1914, that Alban Berg saw a performance of Georg Büchner's Woyzeck with Albert Steinrück in the title role. And he was so impressed by what he saw that he immediately thought of setting the material to music - even against the advice of his teacher Arnold Schönberg. Today we know that what Berg experienced in the then-named Residenzbühne was by no means the »real« Büchner. For the latter had only left behind fragments of Woyzeck, without a defined sequence of scenes, partly in several, differing versions of the text. It was the writer Karl Emil Franzos who posthumously put the work into a form of his own choosing, changed it and published it. Another revision - by Paul Landau - finally resulted in the text that Berg used as the basis for the libretto. For various reasons, Berg's setting was protracted, and it was not until 1922 that the score was essentially completed. While at the same time Erich Wolfgang Korngold was writing his melody-satisfying, sonorously shimmering operas, looking to the past, Berg took a completely new path with Wozzeck. In large parts atonal, he triggered a revolution - which he did not explicitly intend. At the same time, the composer invoked flexibly handled historical forms such as the baroque suite, which subcutaneously structure the dramatic action. The result is an opera that is a symbiosis of psychological analysis, social outcry and highly personal artistic expression: the »first model of a music of real humanism«, as Adorno once put it. Wozzeck was premiered in 1925 with great success in Berlin under the direction of Erich Kleiber (the father of Carlos Kleiber); in 1930, the first performance took place at the Vienna State Opera under Clemens Krauss. Until the Nazis came to power, Wozzeck enjoyed an impressive career in Germany, but was soon performed internationally, in Prague (1926), Leningrad (1927), Philadelphia and Zurich (1931), Brussels (1932) and Brno (1932). In 1955 Wozzeck (under Karl Böhm) was part of the reopening premiere cycle of the Vienna State Opera, and the last new production at the Haus am Ring took place in 1987 under Claudio Abbado in a production by Adolf Dresen. On 21 March, the Vienna State Opera will premiere its fifth new production of Wozzeck to date: music director Philippe Jordan conducts, Simon Stone directs, and the cast includes Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Anja Kampe (Marie), Jörg Schneider (Hauptmann), Dmitry Belosselskiy (Doktor) and house debutant Sean Panikkar (Tambourmajor).