Opera in three acts (15 scenes) by Alban Berg (1885–1935)
after Georg Büchner’s «Woyzeck»
In German with German and English surtitles. Duration 1 H. 25 Min. Without intermission. Introduction 45 min before the performance.
Wozzeck is shaving the captain, who urges him to take things a little more slowly. The captain feels threatened by the notion of eternity. He provokes Wozzeck, the father of an illegitimate child, by accusing him of being immoral. Wozzeck defends himself: he invokes a benevolent God and declares that we cannot be virtuous unless we can afford to be so.
Wozzeck and his friend Andres are in the great outdoors. Andres sings a cheerful hunter’s sung, while Wozzeck has visions.
Marie and her neighbour admire the drum major as he passes by with his military band. A quarrel ensues. Marie sings her child to sleep. Wozzeck arrives, and Marie is alarmed by his condition.
For a small allowance, Wozzeck serves the doctor as a guinea pig for his medical experiments. He tells the doctor about his disturbing visions. In raptures over Wozzeck’s mental confusion, which he perceives as an interesting consequence of his nutritional experiments, the doctor promises him extra pay. He believes that he can now be certain of achieving immortal fame as a scientist.
After resisting briefly, Marie abandons herself to the drum major.
Marie proudly contemplates the earrings that she has received from the drum major. However, the sight of her son spoils her pleasure. Arriving unexpectedly, Wozzeck sees the expensive jewellery. Marie counters his suspicion with excuses. Wozzeck hands over the wages he has received from the captain and the doctor to Marie. As a result, Marie feels guilty.
The captain rushes after the doctor on the street. The doctor torments him by fuelling his fears of dying from an illness. When Wozzeck appears, they poke fun at him and hint at Marie’s affair with the drum major. Distraught, Wozzeck runs off.
Wozzeck seeks Marie out. She provocatively evades his questions about the drum major and reacts scornfully to Wozzeck’s threats. Wozzeck begins to lose his grip on reality.
In a nightmarish scene at a tavern, Wozzeck sees Marie dancing with the drum major. A drunken journeyman philosophises about mankind’s sad existence. A simpleton catches the scent of blood.
In the barracks at night, Wozzeck is unable to sleep. He constantly sees Marie dancing with the drum major. The drunken drum major appears, and boasts about his erotic conquest. Moreover, he humiliates Wozzeck with his physical superiority, and gives him a thrashing.
Marie is reading the story of the adulteress Mary Magdalene in the Bible. Wozzeck’s child is a constant reminder of her guilt. She tells the child a terribly sad story. Then she prays and asks for mercy.
Wozzeck is out and about with Marie. He reminds her of times they have spent together. After a moment’s silence, Wozzeck draws his knife and stabs her to death.
Wozzeck visits Margret. When she notices blood on his hand, Wozzeck flees.
Wozzeck returns to Marie’s corpse. He looks for the knife and throws it into the pond. In his attempt to throw the knife even further into the water and to cleanse himself, Wozzeck drowns. The captain and the doctor walk past.
In agitation, the children tell Wozzeck and Marie’s son about his mother’s death. The children run out to look at the corpse.