In 2010 Berg’s Wozzeck was produced in Russia for the first time since 1927. The production, at the Bolshoi, was directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov. Few people familiar with his work will be surprised to learn that Tcherniakov does not see Wozzeck as a down trodden and impoverished soldier. In fact he doesn’t see him as downtrodden and impoverished at all (unlike, say Calixto Bieito who transplants the action to a chemical plant but leaves the power relationships pretty much intact). Rather, Wozzeck is a sort of 21st century salaryman leading a life of modest prosperity but crushing boredom with Marie and their son in a city inhabited entirely by other such families. What’s missing is anything that resembles sensation or “life”.
I don’t usually associate Arnold Schoenberg with comedy but he did write a one act comic opera Von Heute auf Morgen which premiered in 1929. It was an attempt to cash in on the vogue for satirical operas on modern themes characterised by Brecht and Weill and , if a bit slight and lacking Brechtian punch, it works well enough. A bourgeios husband and wife have returned from an evening out where they have met an iold friend of the wife who has become something of a femme fatale. There’s also a singer, inevitably a tenor, involved. The husband is rabbiting on rather gormlessly about the charms of the “other woman” so his wife decides to teach him a lesson. She apes the manners of a “modern woman”, neglects their child, plans assignations etc. There’s a long phone conversation inwhich the “friend” and the singer invite them back to the bar. By now the husband is beginning to realise what he stands to lose. The wife realises she has won. The other couple show up and there’s a “modern” vs. “traditional” quartet after which the “moderns” leave in disgust and the husband and wife revort to bourgeois domesticity.