Alban Berg's Wozzeck at Salzburg, with Matthias Goerne, with Vladimir Jurowski conducting the Vienna Philharmoniuc Orchestra, at last on medici.tv. Goerne's done the role many times in the last 20 years or so, so his approach is authoritative, with searing intensity, so expressive that you almost flinch. But flinch you should, since that's what makes for a good Wozzeck. When my son went to his first Wozzeck, he heard some in the audience chuckling. "What!" he gasped in exasperation, "If you can come out of this opera without feeling disturbed, there's something wrong with you". For Berg's Wozzeck is the epitome of Expressionist Angst, a psychodrama that unfurls in multi-level complexity. It is a howling scream of outrage against a system that dehumanizes and destroys all involved. Not just Wozzeck, or Marie, but the regimented (in every way) world around them. Everyone in this opera is a puppet of some kind, manipulated by some unseen, invisible force beyond their control.
William Kentridge's production was created for the Haus für Mozart, a relatively small, performing space, which must magnify the impact. On film, however, the physical darkness overwhelms. It's not easy to watch, but well worth the effort because Kentridge's reading is highly perceptive. The abstraction of the set is disconcerting. It's as if we were within an infernal machine, where things are regulated by clockwork: odd angular planes, horizontals and diagonals, myriad tools and mechanisms. The Captain is seen, taunting Wozzeck from above. He's wearing a ceremonial hat and red uniform, his arms waving like a wound-up toy. Gerhard Siegel spat out the words "Haha! Haha!" with maniacal savagery. So he's not being shaved? Wozzeck (Matthias Goerne) is seen bent over, grinding away. Then you realize why the Captain's cloak is blood red. Parallel realities, psychological truth.
The Drum Major (John Daszak) fascinated Marie (Asmik Grigorian) and Margret (Frances Pappas) because he seems to embody another, more glamorous world than their own. Yet he, too, is a puppet, strutting and marching in formation. Though Marie loves her child and tries to amuse him with songs, she can't break out of the pattern of inept parenting she probably experienced herself. Goerne's voice with its rich depth suggests more warmth and basic decency than the role strictly speaking provides, but this household isn't Happy Families.
Grigorian's tiny, her voice more shrill than most Maries, so in comparison with Goerne, she's like a fragile child. He towers over her, like a father figure, a chilling image, suggestingb that both of them were brutalized, too, in the past. Two tiny figures in a vast landscape oif abstract black and grey with flashes of red light, like thunder (in recognition of Berg's original stage directions). The "curtain" falls in a cataclysmic scream in the orchestra, horns ablaze. But Goerne dominates, in every way, singing with exceptional character, better even than in the past. "Das Wassser ist Blut ! Blut!" The Doctor and Captain, yet again, retreat in denial.
William Kentridge | Stage director, Luc De Wit | Co-stage director,Sabine Theunissen | Stage sets,
Greta Goiris | Costumes, Catherine Meyburgh | Video editor, Urs Schönebaum | Lighting, Kim Gunning | Video operator
Matthias Goerne | Wozzeck, John Daszak | Drum Major, Mauro Peter | Andres, Gerhard Siegel | Captain, Jens Larsen | Doctor, Tobias Schabel | First Apprentice, Huw Montague Rendall | Second Apprentice, Heinz Göhrig | Madman, Asmik Grigorian | Marie, Frances Pappas | Margret
Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor, Wolfgang Götz | Chorus director, Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus, Ernst Raffelsberger | Chorus director
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski | Conductor