Wozzeck hell was that ?

A very good friend, in fact my son’s godfather, came to stay at the weekend, and was regaling us with stories of his cultural life in London, where he works as a systems consultant for a very well-known financial firm.

He is a music-lover – at school, we became friends over a shared love of jazz, in particular, albums by Chick Corea and guitarist Al Di Meola – although he also enjoys classical music. He went to hear Gheorgiu and Alagna in La boheme at Covent Garden earlier this year, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and mentioned a previous experience.

“A mate of mine rang me,” he launched into the story, “saying that he’d got a box at Covent Garden, and asked if I wanted to come. Well, I thought, why not… I didn’t know what opera was being performed, and I just turned up at the appointed hour.”

“And what did you see ?” I asked him.

“Wozzeck.”

I fell about laughing at the expression on his face as he delivered, dead-pan, the title of Berg’s brutal, atonal opera.

“How was it?”

“Well,” he replied, “it wasn’t exactly up-lifting. In fact, I found it rather impenetrable.”

“It’s the sort of piece,” said my wife, “that you ought to be warned about beforehand” (and she’s a professional singer, so she knows about this sort of thing). “You can do a bit of research before you go into the story and the characters, so you can learn to recognise their tunes.”

“TUNES ?!” exploded my friend in disbelief. “Tunes?”

“Well,” I murmured, “perhaps it’s not exactly full of hummable ditties fleshing out a rib-tickler of a story.”

My friend shuddered. What a work to have thrust upon you blindfold…

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