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Remarks by Alban Berg
“Give unto the theatre what is the theatre’s …“
I did not dream of wishing to reform the art form of opera by composing Wozzeck, nor was that my intention as I began to compose it; nor did I ever consider, assume or expect that the result would be an object lesson in what should be exemplary in creating another opera – either of my own or by another composer.
Apart from the desire to make good music, to musically realise the psychological matter in Büchner’s immortal drama, to translate his poetic language into a musical one, at the moment when I decided to write an opera I had no other notion (not even in terms of compositional technique) than to give unto the theatre what is the theatre’s. That is, designing the music so that it was conscious at every moment of its duty to serve the drama – indeed, to go further; making the music so that everything the drama needs to translate into the reality of the stage comes from the music alone, the composer thus arrogating all the essential tasks of an ideal director – and all that notwithstanding such music’s other absolute (purely musical) right to exist, notwithstanding its own life, unimpaired by anything extra-musical.
Alban Berg, in Musikblätter des Anbruch, Vol. XII, No. 2, January 1930
If the evening began poignantly, it ended, as a powerful performance of Berg’s opera must, in utter devastation. Kenneth Richardson’s semi-staging had the singers acting on a sliver of stage with a handful of props and costumes. (Kate Molleson, The Guardian, 24.10.2014)