July 14, 2015
Mark Berry: Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Schoenberg’s Operas
Arnold Schoenberg came to artistic maturity in that celebrated 'crucible of modernity' sometimes simply known as 'Freud's Vienna'. It was there and then that he resolved, not without regret, to break with tonality, to feel, as the Stefan Georg text to his 1908 Second String Quartet – the work within which he made that break – has it, the 'air of another planet'. In this lecture, I shall look in particular at two of his operas. Erwartung, his first, was written in 1909, to a text by Marie Pappenheim, a dermatologist with interest in psychoanalysis, and a relative of Josef Breuer’s ‘Anna O’. Its exploration, verbal and musical, of extreme psychological states has much to tell us concerning Schoenberg’s own concerns. Moses und Aron, Schoenberg’s final, unfinished opera was written considerably later, in the final years of Weimar Germany, prior to Schoenberg’s flight from the Third Reich. It will be considered in the light of Freud’s own Moses and Monotheism, and with particular respect to Schoenberg’s fears of idolatry. A relatively recent production, from the Vienna State Opera, which treats the Orgy around the Golden Calf with images from modern advertising points to important questions concerning our desires and their fulfilment.