He is ’Grandson’ to Mahler and ’Uncle’ to Shostakovich


There has been only one Russian production of Wozzeck — this was in 1927 at the Leningrad Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Since then there have been sporadic appearances of the opera in our country — in the repertoire of companies on tour: Dresden State Opera brought Wozzeck to Leningrad, Hamburg Opera brought it to Moscow. But at Western opera-houses it is done fairly often. Its producers have included major directors (Patrice Cheraud, Peter Stein, Peter Konvichny, Luke Bondi) and conductors (Dmitri Mitropoulos, Karl Bohm, Pierre Boulez, Claudio Abbado, Christoph von Dohnanyi). Virtually all composers writing in the ’post-Wozzeck’ age have been influenced by it...

Berg’s opera is based on the play of the same name by Georg Buchner (1836). The play which survived in draft form and has come down to us in several different versions, with two different spellings of the hero’s surname, is based on fact. The real Wozzeck — Johann Christian Woyzeck — was beheaded in Leipzig for murdering his wife, out of jealousy. The psychiatrist’s report on the incident was published in a specialized journal where it was read by the future author of the play.

For virtually 50 years the play was lost. It was discovered only at the end of the 19th century and got its first performance in the early 20th century. The composer Alban Berg was present at one of the first performances. He immediately began writing a libretto and created an exceptionally compact work, reducing the 26 odd scenes of the original to 15 and concentrating all the emphasis on the development of the main plot line. There are three acts in his opera. Each act has 5 scenes, its own clear-cut structure and advances implacably to its own minor catastrophe.

Having built up an ideally dramatic composition, the composer created an unusually interesting musical texture. This is a real treasure for music lovers! There are a variety of musical forms — the sonata, fugue, rondo, invention, suite, rhapsody, as well as popular musical genres — the song, march, lullaby, waltz, polka. Berg openly quotes from other works. Wozzeck is a summation in a way of preceding ages in music theatre as well as marking the opening of a new age.

Wozzeck is a work which introduced changes into the aesthetic of the 20th century. We can talk of the pre-Wozzeck age and the post-Wozzeck age... Wozzeck is ’grandson’ to Mahler and at the same time the founder of modern music — ’father’ to Zimmermann, Gerard Grisey, Xenakis and ’uncle’ to Shostakovich came under its spell. Wozzeck’s influence extended to literature too: take Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, for instance, or Frank Wedekind’s Pandora’s box or Robert Musil” — says Teodor Currentzis.

Introducing Berg’s cult opera to Moscow are conductor Teodor Currentzis, director, and also scenographer and costume designer Dmitri Tcherniakov, Yelena Zaytseva (costumes), Gleb Filshtinsky (lighting).

The part of Wozzeck will be sung by the acclaimed interpreters of modern music Markus Eiche (Germany) and Georg Nigl (Austria), the part of Marie — by the American singer Mardi Byers and our fellow countryman Yelena Zhidkova (they are ’linked’ by the fact that both carved out a successful career for themselves in Europe). Mikhail Gubsky and Maxim Paster (Bolshoi Theatre) will sing the Captain, Pyotr Migunov and Dmitry Uliyanov — the Doctor, Rafal Bartminski (Poland) and Roman Muravitsky (Bolshoi Theatre) — the Drum-major.

The first night performances are on 24, 25, 26, 28 and 29 November.