This manuscript of the prologue to Alban Berg’s opera Lulu was presented by the composer to Arnold Schoenberg, to whom the work was dedicated, on his 60th birthday in 1934.
The manuscript is written in ink by the composer himself, with bar lines in pencil, on systems of up to 24 staves. The music is preceded by a title page and a full list of dramatis personae (‘Personen’), in which Berg makes clear the doubling of certain roles in the opera to link Lulu’s victims in the first two acts with her attackers in Act 3. The roles of the Theatre Director, the Commissioner of Police and the Banker, for example, are all allocated to the same singer, a deep buffo bass.
In the prologue, an animal tamer introduces his menagerie to the audience, each animal being identified via a musical motif with a character in the opera. Berg also writes stage directions in the manuscript, indicating in bar 4 the entrance of a clown – with a large drum hanging around his neck – from stage left followed by the animal tamer in a red tailcoat in bar 5.
The manuscript forms part of the remarkable collection of musical and literary autographs assembled by Stefan Zweig (1881–1942), which was donated to the British Library by Zweig’s heirs in 1986. Berg was a near contemporary and friend of Zweig, but this manuscript never belonged to Zweig himself: it was instead added to the collection after his death.
- Article by:
- Mark Berry
- Music and modernism, Performance and reception, Musical style
Mark Berry introduces the three composers labelled as key members of the ‘Second Viennese School’, each influential in his own way on musical modernism throughout the remainder of the 20th century.