A direct forebear of the modern Theatre of the Absurd, Wedekind employed episodic scenes, fragmented dialogue, distortion, and caricature in his dramas, which formed the transition from the realism of his age to the Expressionism of the following generation.
The son of a German American father and a Swiss mother, Wedekind lived in Switzerland from 1872 to 1884, when he moved to Munich, where he remained until his death. He was successively an advertising manager, the secretary of a circus, a journalist for the satirical weekly "Simplicissimus", a cabaret performer, and the producer of his own plays. The electric quality of his personality has been attested by his contemporaries.
Wedekind’s characteristic theme in his dramas was the antagonism of the elemental force of sex to the philistinism of society. In 1891 the publication of his tragedy "Frühlings Erwachen" ("The Awakening of Spring", also published as "Spring Awakening") created a scandal. Successfully produced by Max Reinhardt in 1905, the play is a series of brief scenes, some poetic and tender, others harsh and frank, dealing with the awakening of sexuality in three adolescents. In the Lulu plays, "Erdgeist" (1895; "Earth Spirit") and "Die Büchse der Pandora" (1904; "Pandora’s Box"), he extended the theme of sex to the underworld of society and introduced the eternal, amoral femme fatale Lulu, who is destroyed in the tragic conflict of sexual freedom with hypocritical bourgeois morality. These two tragedies inspired Alban Berg’s opera Lulu. The character of Lulu is most identified with actress Louise Brooks, who portrayed her in G.W. Pabst’s masterful silent film version of "Die Büchse der Pandora" (1929).
In 1918, Bertolt Brecht attended the funeral of Frank Wedekind. He later wrote in his diary, "They stood perplexed in top hats, as if round the carcass of a vulture. Bewildered crows."
Wedekind was a prophet in the darkness. He had come before his time. A moralist who wore the mask of an immoralist, he had been the terror of the German bourgeoisie, alternately praised for being a saint and condemned for being a devil. He did not follow any group, or subscribe to any political ideology of the day. And his expressionistic visions preceded the rise of expressionism by several decades.
During Frank Wedekind's lifetime, his plays were persecuted and only performed in censored versions. They were considered pure pornography, for he dared to deal with issues of sexual freedom and release, problems of puberty, moments of ecstasy between the sexes, and moments of misunderstanding and violence. Wedekind's language was brilliant and poetic, constructed mainly of cascades of short one-line sentences often consisting of only one or two words, like verbal exchanges between pistols. His plays broke through all the clichés of the theatre of his time, and today he is considered one of the founders of modern drama.
Celebrating the 100th birthday of Frank Wedekind, Ernst Busch released in 1964 as a part of his "Aurora"-series a booklet with two EPs featuring "Spottlieder" by Frank Wedekind, accompanied by Walter Olbertz.
EP 1: Im heiligen Land, Der Anarchist / Der Zoologe von Berlin, Der blinde Knabe
EP 2: Brigitte B., Mein Lieschen, Die Wetterfahne / Die sieben Heller, Diplomaten
Ernst Busch - Frank Wedekind - Spottlieder (Aurora, 1964)
(192 kbps, front cover included)