Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Wozzeck 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, March 22, 1 P.M.

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Wozzeck (Held) in the tavern
© Beth Bergman 2014
The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Wozzeck


Music and libretto by Alban Berg, adapted from the play Woyzeck, by Georg Büchner
THE CAST   (in order of vocal appearance)
Captain tenor, PETER HOARE
Wozzeck  baritone, THOMAS HAMPSON
Andres tenor, RUSSELL THOMAS
Marie soprano, DEBORAH VOIGT
Margret mezzo, TAMARA MUMFORD
Doctor bass, CLIVE BAYLEY
Drum Major tenor, SIMON O'NEILL
1st Apprentice bass, RICHARD BERNSTEIN
2nd Apprentice ten., MARK SCHOWALTER
Fool tenor, PHILIPPE CASTAGNER
Soldier tenor, DANIEL CLARK SMITH
Townsman ten., RAYMOND APARENTADO
Marie's child treble, TBA

Conducted by JAMES LEVINE
 
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus
 
Production: Mark Lamos
Set and costume designer: Robert Israel
Lighting designer: James F. Ingalls
Stage director: Gregory Keller
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Linda Hall, 
    John Keenan, Jonathan Khuner, 
    Bradley Moore
Assistant stage director: Gregory Anthony 
    Fortner
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Children's chorus director: Anthony Piccolo
German coach: Marianne Barrett
Fight director: B. H. Barry
Prompter: Jonathan Khuner
Stage piano solo: Bradley Moore
 
Production a gift of the 
    Metropolitan Opera Club
 
Additional funding from The DuBose and 
    Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund
Revival a gift of Robert L. Turner

THE SCENES  Timings 
 (Leipzig, 1824)  
ACT I 1:00–
    Sc. 1The Captain's room 
    Sc. 2An open field 
    Sc. 3Marie's room 
    Sc. 4The Doctor's study 
    Sc. 5Outside Marie's house 
ACT II  
    Sc. 1Marie's room 
    Sc. 2A street 
    Sc. 3Outside Marie's house 
    Sc. 4A beer garden 
    Sc. 5The barracks 
ACT III –2:55
    Sc. 1Marie's room 
    Sc. 2A path near a pond 
    Sc. 3A tavern 
    Sc. 4Near the pond 
    Sc. 5Outside Marie's house 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel, 
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park
 
For more information on the broadcasts, 
    please visit www.operainfo.org.
 
Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.
 
This performance is also being broadcast live 
    on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM channel 74.

THE STORY 

ACT I. (Suite) As Wozzeck shaves his Captain, the officer questions him about time and morality. The simple soldier defends his unblessed union with Marie, who has borne his child, by quoting Jesus: "Suffer the little children to come unto me." Unprepared for such an answer, the Captain demands an explanation. Wozzeck stammers that the poor cannot afford virtue. Disturbed, the Captain tells him not to think so much.

(Rhapsody) Cutting sticks in a field, Wozzeck is seized by hallucinations. As his friend Andres sings a song about the huntsman's life, Wozzeck imagines that the sinking sun has set the world on fire.

(March) Through her window, Marie, clutching Wozzeck's child, watches a military band led by the dashing Drum Major. Her neighbor, Margret, accuses her of eyeing all men. After Marie has sung a lullaby to her child, Wozzeck arrives and tells her of his fearful visions, then rushes away. 

(Passacaglia) To help support his family, Wozzeck visits a Doctor, who uses him as a guinea pig in unorthodox experiments.

(Andante affettuoso — quasi rondo) Marie admires the Drum Major, who struts before her in the street. Unable to resist his advances, she leads him into the house. 

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Wozzeck, Marie and her child (Held, Meier, Albert)
© Beth Bergman 2014

ACT II. (Sonata) With her little boy in her lap, Marie puts on earrings given to her by the Drum Major. Wozzeck enters; the guilty woman tries unsuccessfully to hide the earrings, then lies that she has found them. Wozzeck gives Marie his wages; when he leaves, she berates herself.

(Fantasy and fugue) In a street, the Captain and the Doctor talk morbidly of sickness and death. As Wozzeck passes by, they goad him with allusions to Marie's infidelity.

(Largo) Standing in front of her house, Marie is accused wildly by Wozzeck. When he starts to strike her, she tells him she would rather have a knife in her breast than his hand upon her.

(Scherzo) Two drunken apprentices stumble about the dance floor of a beer garden, muttering foolishly. The band begins to play. Marie and the Drum Major, passionately embracing in a lurid waltz, are seen by Wozzeck, who cries out to heaven for justice. A Fool tells Wozzeck he smells blood, as Marie and her lover whirl past. Wozzeck moans that everything seems to be twisting in a terrifying red mist.

(Rondo con introduzione) Tossing in his bunk in the barracks, Wozzeck prays for deliverance from temptation. The Drum Major stumbles in drunkenly, boasting of his conquest of Marie. When Wozzeck turns away, the Drum Major beats him up.

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The Doctor, Wozzeck and the Captain (Fink, Held, Siegel)
© Beth Bergman 2014

ACT III. (Invention on a theme) The guilt-ridden Marie reads aloud from the Bible. Tenderly she takes her child into her arms. She finds a passage about Mary Magdalene and sobs, "Savior! As Thou hadst mercy on her, have mercy now on me, Lord!"

(Invention on one note) Wozzeck leads Marie at dusk along a forest path beside a pond. They sit down to rest, and Wozzeck gently kisses her. As the moon rises, he exclaims that it is the color of blood. Wozzeck draws his knife, murders Marie and silently rushes off.

(Invention on a rhythm) At a table in a tavern, Wozzeck urges on the dancing apprentices and their sweethearts. Seeing blood on Wozzeck's hands, Margret cries out.

(Invention on a chord of six notes) Back at the pond, Wozzeck searches desperately for the bloody knife. He finds it and wades into the water, throwing the blade farther into the depths. The Doctor and Captain, passing by, hear sounds of drowning.

(Invention on a quaver figure) In front of Marie's house, children play "Ring-a-ring-a-roses"; Marie's child rides his hobby-horse. Other children run in to tell him that his mother is dead, but he does not understand. When they all rush off to see her body, he continues to play, then follows his friends.

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Alan Held as Wozzeck and Gerhard Siegel as the
Captain in Mark Lamos's production of Wozzeck at the
Met

© Beth Bergman 2014

THE BACKGROUND 

Alban Berg (1885–1935), a member of the Viennese intelligentsia, was twenty-nine years old when he first saw Georg Büch­ner's drama Woyzeck. Condensing Büch­ner's play into fifteen short episodes, Berg based the musical structure of each scene on classical forms — suite, rondo, variations, sonata, passacaglia — placing the emotional story in a framework of logic.

Three excerpts from Berg's Wozzeck created a sensation at the Frankfurt Music Festival in 1924, the first time any of the music was performed publicly. After 137 rehearsals, the opera took the stage at the Berlin Staatsoper, conducted by Erich Kleiber, on December 14, 1925. At first Wozzeck did well, achieving twenty-one performances in Berlin up until 1932, and had the Nazis not banished it, there is every indication it would have stayed in the repertory. No fewer than sixteen German provincial theaters ventured to produce it, and outside Germany it made its way to Czechoslovakia, Austria, Holland and even the U.S.S.R. (Leningrad, 1927).

The American premiere was given by Leopold Stokowski on March 19, 1931, with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Association at the Academy of Music. The first Metropolitan Opera production, directed by Herbert Graf and featuring the iconic designs of German master Caspar Neher, did not take place until March 5, 1959. Karl Böhm conducted Hermann Uhde and Eleanor Steber as Wozzeck and Marie, singing in an English translation. The first Met Wozzeck performance in German was in 1980, with José van Dam and Anja Silja paced by James Levine. Levine led the current Met production, directed by Mark Lamos, when it opened on February 10, 1997.

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The Doctor and Wozzeck (Walter Fink, Held)
© Johan Elbers 2014

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

George Perle's The Operas of Alban Berg: Wozzeck (University of California) is authoritative; Douglas Jarman's Alban Berg: Wozzeck, for Cambridge Opera Handbooks, is also useful. Alban Berg: Letters to his Wife (Faber) offers a unique perspective on the composer's private life. George Büchner's play, Woyzeck, is available in several paperback editions.

On CD, the live Carnegie Hall performance from 1951 (CBS/Sony) retains its punch, thanks to the brilliant conducting of Dmitri Mitropoulos. Pierre Boulez's 1966 Paris recording (CBS/Sony, now hard to find), starring Walter Berry as Wozzeck, has long been considered classic; Berry is also Wozzeck on Karl Böhm's electric live recording from Vienna, vintage 1955 (Andante). Böhm's DG recording features blue-chip performances from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Evelyn Lear. Powerful Wozzecks of more recent vintage include Ingo Metzmacher's live Hamburg recording (EMI) and Paul Daniel's English-language version (Chandos). 

On DVD, a 1987 performance of Peter Mussbach's Vienna production, superbly conducted by Claudio Abbado, stars Franz Grundheber and Hildegard Behrens (Image Entertainment DVD; also DG CD). Mussbach is also the director of the Frankfurt Opera production (Kultur), led by Sylvain Cambreling, with Dale Duesing and Katherine Ciesinski. Patrice Chéreau's staging, taped in 1994 at the Berlin Staatsoper, demonstrates that director's breathtaking emotional and musical imagination, with Grundheber and Waltraud Meier paced by Daniel Barenboim (Warner). James Levine leads the Met's harrowing 2001 performance of Mark Lamos's staging, with Falk Struckmann and Katarina Dalayman as Wozzeck and Marie. Werner Herzog's 1979 film of Büchner's Woyzeck (Anchor Bay) features a harrowing central performance by Klaus Kinski. spacer 

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Current Issue: November 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 5