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Wozzeck on Ice!: It was a hoax.


Damn, damn, damn! I was all set to go on Travelocity to book a flight to Freiburg, Germany when this poster for Wozzeck on Ice! arrived in my inbox this morning.

Imagine: A genre normally associated with the lightest of light children’s entertainment applied to a thoroughly adult, furrow-browed opera.  Imagine the most graceful and circular of the athletic arts being the frame for Alban Berg’s incredibly angular music.

With ice skates, singers could make entrances and exits with cinematic speed. They would also get sick more often. Then again, the Drum Major’s entrance could be heralded by smurfs. It’s a whole new vista in German Regie-theater!

Of course, miking the singers would probably be necessary, given the stadium-like ceilings of most ice rinks. And the advertising campaigns would have to be massive in order to find enough people wanting to see Wozzeck on Ice! to fill an ice rink.

Then, the idea vanished like a mirage. A colleague combed the Web, found no record of a Wozzeck on Ice! in Freiburg, but did indeed find that there had been a Wozzeck production, not on ice, put on by the same team listed on the poster in 2005.  Where did the poster come from? Don’t know.

Might this spark an idea for something real? Sounds like a job for the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Alan Gilbert, are you listening?



  1. Alan Gilbert? I dunno, David – sounds more like a job for Peter Gelb to me.

  2. Steve Soderberg says:

    Uhhhh…. There’s a difference between a send-up and a hoax.

    • Has the world so quickly forgotten the Ruth Berghaus Ring Cycle production that attempted to mine the saga for its comic elements? Part of my tongue-in-cheek point is that Wozzeck on Ice! isn’t necessarily that much of a stretch. Let’s also not forget that if Susan Graham can roller blade to rehearsals at the Paris Opera, she might also be able to sing Marie on ice skates.

      • Steve Soderberg says:

        Good point.

        I agree that large parts of the arts community (thankfully not all yet, but the pressure is on) are now taken up with playing the Glass Bead Game. A good summary of Hesse’s prophetic insight is this quote from a paper by Swedish organist Hans Hellsten:

        “The goal of the game is to create new combinations of knowledge within existing sciences and arts. This is also the very limitation of the game. No new knowledge is created, only new combinations of old knowledge. The Glass Bead Game is a symbol of culture in harmony and balance, but the price to be paid is high: ‘The most important consequence of this new attitude, or rather of this new subordination to the cultural process, was that men largely ceased to produce works of art.'”

        I suppose one could argue that Wozzeck on Ice! is neither send-up nor hoax, but a work of conceptual art awaiting concretization & commodification.


    • Yes, Steve, this was probably a send-up. But this is opera in Germany, for heaven’s sake! You know we can’t put it past them.

  3. David, my first reaction to this was a bit of fun that circulated recently was the same as MWnyc’s is-it-or-isn’t-it — “this is opera in Germany [Freiburg – very convincing red herring!]…we can’t put it past them.” What tipped me off was seeing ice skates AND big grins on those singers. Loved the poster, though, and what a hilarious idea! I also Googled but found no hint of an ice show based on Berg’s tragic drama, so realized it had to be some evil genius’ holiday spoof, and bravo and thanks to whoever you are! As you can see from other responses, too few people can simply enjoy feeling tickled, have a laugh and let it go at that.

    Anyway, my thought was not of Alan Gilbert, despite the Gruppen extravaganza, because Wozzeck On Ice’s absurdity is not suited to any NY arts institutions. This is entertainment, so I think Cirque du Soleil folks should produce this in Las Vegas where the ridiculous meets the sublime. They have the technical prowess, the theater space, audience potential and funding potential. Imagine ice skating acrobats performing an amazing and exciting visual show while the singing cast, miked, is costumed and in a booth overlooking the stage, just as thas been done effectively in other productions. Translating the libretto into Cirque’s proprietary language, and getting the singers learn it would be part of the fun. Also, if any ice show producer could get away without changing the story to a happy ending, Cirque could.

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