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After wowing audiences with his astounding production of Lulu in 2015, South African artist William Kentridge now focuses his extraordinary visual imagination on Berg’s other operatic masterpiece, set in an apocalyptic pre–World War I environment. Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin is on the podium for this important event, with baritone Peter Mattei making his highly anticipated role debut as the title character. Soprano Elza van den Heever is Wozzeck’s unfaithful mate, and the commanding cast also includes tenor Christopher Ventris as the Drum-Major, bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as the Doctor, and tenor Gerhard Siegel as the Captain.
A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera; Salzburg Festival; the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto; and Opera Australia
Production a gift of Robert L. Turner
Languages sung in Wozzeck
Title languages displayed for Wozzeck
Met Titles In
Timeline for the show, Wozzeck
Estimated Run Time
1 hrs 32 mins
Acts I, II, & III
World Premiere: Staatsoper, Berlin, 1925. One of the emblematic achievements of the thriving artistic forces in Germany and Austria during the brief period between world wars, Wozzeck was a sensation and a scandal at its premiere. Remarkably, it has lost none of its power to fascinate, shock, and engage audiences, and its status as one of the defining musical works of the 20th century has not blunted its vitality.
Among the most visionary and influential composers of the 20th century, Alban Berg (1885–1935) came of age amid an explosion of artistic and intellectual creativity in Vienna. His vocal and instrumental writing merges the revolutionary techniques of Arnold Schoenberg with the grandeur of such late Romantic composers as Gustav Mahler. The libretto is Berg’s own close adaptation of the play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner (1813–1837).
Luc De Wit
Berg did not specify a time or location for the opera. The background of Büchner’s play has led to the assumption of Leipzig, Germany, circa 1821, as an appropriate setting, but the work’s universal ideas far outweigh any forced attempt at historical accuracy. William Kentridge’s new production updates the action to the period before the First World War.
Berg’s score encapsulates the artistic ideals of Expressionism in music—emphasizing the unseen and the subconscious by focusing on the symbolic rather than the concrete. Atonality and whole-tone composition coexist in Berg’s score with moments of romanticism and melody. The vocal writing ranges from pure speech to declaimed speech with musical inflections to melodic singing. Recurring motifs are used but not in the strict Wagnerian sense of a musical phrase attached to a specific character or idea.