Master’s Thesis (Eastman School of Music, 2012)

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Thesis (M.A.)–University of Rochester, 2012. One volume written thesis; one volume composition.
Alban Berg’s masterpiece, Wozzeck, has profoundly influenced the composition of opera since its premiere in 1925. In this work, Berg’s understanding of the relationship between dramatic and musical form provides an emotionally and structurally compelling model for opera in a post-Wagnerian world. Through adapting Wagner’s leitmotivic technique and adapting antiquated musical forms (such as sonatas and baroque suites) to accommodate new kinds of materials, Berg reconciled programmatic and absolute music in a way many composers have since found inspiring. The most direct instance is postulated in Christopher Reynolds’ “Porgy and Bess: An American Wozzeck,” a study that benefits from documentation of Gershwin’s fascination with Berg and plans to study with him.
A more recent work—Thomas Adès’ chamber opera, Powder Her Face—strikes me as being particularly indebted to Wozzeck. The two works share several fundamental elements, musical and dramatic, which are most strikingly revealed through a comparison of two important interludes: Berg’s final Wozzeck interlude and Adès’ second Powder Her Face interlude. These are related proportionally, harmonically, and timbrally.