Tristan Quotations in Alban Berg’s Opera Lulu and Berg’s Late Style

November 15, 2021


It is well known that Alban Berg drew heavily from both the musical material and dramatic themes of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1857–59) in his opera Lulu (1929–35, completed by Friedrich Cerha in 1979). This article provides an overview of Berg’s history of borrowing from Wagner, followed by in-depth readings of two underexplored quotations from his opera.  The first of these is a concealed quotation displaying programmatic strategies analogous to those found in Berg’s other works from the late 1920s (the Lyric Suite and Der Wein in particular); the second, composed years later for the final scene of Lulu, betrays a shift in Berg’s creative priorities, reflecting both the changes in his personal life and the new political climate in which he worked.

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