This opera presents the descent into madness of the soldier Wozzeck who is the subject of a heartless military experiment where he is fed only beans as the doctor observes the effect of his restricted diet on his mental disintegration. Alban Berg (1885 - 1935) started to write his opera Wozzek after seeing the play by Georg Büchner (called Woyzeck) in 1914, but because of World War I, it wasn't finished until 1922 and first produced in 1925. The simple plot is built around Wozzek who murders his cheating girlfriend, Marie, and commits suicide, while their child, unable to comprehend the tragedy, plays nearby.

The music, however, is anything but simple with its rich mixture of styles, ranging from the post-romantic to the purely atonal serial music of his teacher Arnold Schoenberg. Adding popular and folk elements to the mix, the composer removes any comfortable framework the listener might need to create the illusion of stability in the work. Still, Berg provided a subliminal center in his use of classical musical structures: the first act is a collection of 5 pieces representing aspects of Wozzeck's persona in relation to other characters in his life; the second is a symphony in five movements, and the third act is a series of five variations set on different ostinatos. Neither the plot nor an account of the musical form conveys the sheer power of the opera that left me completely drained after seeing it. From the first scene where Wozzek shaves the doctor (Langsam, Wozzeck, Langsam! (Slowly, Wozzeck, Slowly) to the first scene in act three where Wozzeck, in a Sprechgesang, moans "Blut! Blut" (Blood! Blood!), the listener has watched and felt madness descend: the last connection with reality has snapped. In total contrast, the last scene presents their child alone on stage, innocent of what has happened, singing "Hop Hop!"

Reference: http://www.excite.com/entertainment/fine_arts/classical_music/composers/20th_century/atonal/berg_alban/?search=wozzek

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