Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Berg began work on the opera in 1917 while on leave from his regiment during World War I. He completed the opera in 1922. Erich Kleiber conducted the world premiere of Wozzeck at the Berlin State Opera on December 14, 1925.
Wozzeck is one of the most famous examples of atonality (music which avoids establishing a key). The atonal style helps dramatize the themes of alienation and madness. Berg was following in Schoenberg's, his teacher's, footsteps in using free atonality to express emotions and even the thought processes of the characters on the stage. Not only was the expression of madness and alienation possible with the power of atonal music. The greater themes of love and humanity and the striving of ordinary people for dignity in the face of abuse and brutality with which Wozzeck struggles during the opera are marvellously portrayed in music by Berg. Such is Berg's skillful observation of real life that he is able to convey pictures of the ordinary (the scenes in a tavern - inside and outside Marie's room) or the mundane (the snoring soldiers in their barracks).
- Wozzeck, a soldier
- Marie, his mistress
- A Captain (Hauptmann)
- Andres, another soldier
- A Doctor
- The Drum-Major (Tambourmajor)
Scene 1: Wozzeck is shaving the Captain who lectures him for living an immoral life. Wozzeck protests that it is difficult to be virtuous when he is poor.
Scene 2: Wozzeck and Andres are cutting sticks as the sun is setting. Wozzeck has frightening visions and Andres tries unsuccessfully to calm him.
Scene 3: A military parade is passing by outside Marie's room. Margret taunts Marie for flirting with the soldiers. Then Wozzeck comes by and tells Marie of the terrible visions he has had.
Scene 4: The Doctor scolds Wozzeck for not following his instructions regarding diet and behavior (which Wozzeck has been submitting to to make extra money for Marie). However, when the Doctor hears of Wozzeck's mental aberrations, he is delighted and congratulates himself on the success of his experiment.
Scene 5: Marie admires the Drum-major outside her room. He makes an advance on her, to which she first resists but then gives in.
Scene 1: Marie is telling her child to go to sleep while admiring earrings which the Drum-major gave her. She is startled when Wozzeck arrives and when he asks where she got the earrings, she says she found them. After Wozzeck gives her some money and leaves, Marie chastises herself.
Scene 2: The Doctor rushes by the Captain in the street, who urges him to slow down. The Doctor then proceeds to scare the Captain by speculating what afflictions may strike him. When Wozzeck comes by, they insinuate that Marie is being unfaithful to him.
Scene 3: Wozzeck confronts Marie, who does not deny his suspicions. Enraged, Wozzeck is about to hit her, when she stops him, saying even her father never dared lay a hand on her.
Scene 4: Among a crowd, Wozzeck sees Marie dancing with the Drum-major. After a brief hunter's chorus, Andres asks Wozzeck why he is sitting by himself. An Artisan delivers a drunken sermon, then an Idiot approaches Wozzeck and cries out that he smells blood.
Scene 5: In the barracks at night, Wozzeck, unable to sleep, is keeping Andres awake. The Drum-major comes in, intoxicated, and fights with Wozzeck.
Scene 1: In her room at night, Marie reads to herself from the Bible. She cries out that she wants forgiveness.
Scene 2: Wozzeck and Marie are walking in the woods by a pond. Marie is anxious to leave, but Wozzeck restrains her. As a red moon rises, Wozzeck becomes determined that if he can't have Marie, no one else can, and he stabs her.
Scene 3: People are dancing in a tavern. Wozzeck enters and greets Margret, then insults her. When she notices blood on his hand, everyone begins shouting at him, and he rushes off.
Scene 4: Having returned to the murder scene, Wozzeck becomes obsessed with the thought that the knife he killed Marie with will incriminate him, and throws it into the pond. When the blood-red moon appears again, he wades into the pond and drowns. The Captain and the Doctor, passing by, hear Wozzeck moaning and rush off in fright.
Scene 5: Next morning, children are playing in the sunshine. The news spreads that Marie's body has been found, and they all run off to see, except for Marie's little boy, who after an oblivious moment, follows after the others.
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