The best way to experience opera is in person, but the next best thing is to watch the film adaptation with subtitles. This was Berg’s first opera and it was based on Georg Büchner’s incomplete play Woyzeck (which is partly why the film version works). Berg began working on the opera in 1914, but soon he left to fight in World War I and experienced first-hand the desperate humiliation of fighting a war with people you despised. (Berg was also not the easiest guy to get along with, but still.)
Wozzeck is an early example of using Schoenberg-atonality in 20th century opera, and it’s considered a major step in bringing avant garde into the mainstream. The lack of major/minor tonality gives the music an uneasy feel, which Berg used to match his uneasy story of a German town caught up in wartime.
Now that it’s finally snowing a lot on the east coast, it’s a great time to stay in and watch some atonal opera on your computer.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber