The Catholic University of America

The Operas of Alban Berg

Dr. Andrew Simpson


This course is intended to provide the student with intimate knowledge of two of the 20th century’s most significant operatic works, Wozzeck and Lulu, through analysis of its formal organization, study of its pitch, harmonic, and melodic elements, use of leitmotifs, and dramatic content.  Seminar members will engage directly with the primary source material (vocal scores) of both operas.  Wozzeck, as an atonal opera, and Lulu, as a dodecaphonic (12-tone) work, represent a microcosm of two of the 20th century’s most significant systems of pitch and harmonic organization, and therefore present themselves as representative case studies.  Because the course focuses on theoretical inquiry, emphasis will be placed on the methodology of analysis of both types of systems.  In order to provide background and review these methods, the course will review and examine methods of analysis for both atonal and dodecaphonic compositions.  Additionally, extensive readings in the theoretical secondary literature will introduce students to the principal currents of thought in Berg scholarship, and familiarize them with important previous analytical studies of these works.

Return to Musicology Seminars