BBC Music Magazine - - Opera -

Wozzeck (DVD)

Matthias Go­erne, As­mik Grigo­rian, Frances Pap­pas, John Daszak, Mauro Peter, Ger­hard Siegel, Jens Larsen; Vi­enna State Opera Choir; Salzburg Fes­ti­val & Theatre Chil­dren’s Choir; Vi­enna Phil­har­monic/vladimir Jurowski; dir. Wil­liam Ken­tridge (Salzburg, 2017)

Har­mo­nia Mundi HMD 9809053-54

101 mins (Dvd/blu-ray)

De­spite ex­ces­sive jump-cut­ting in the edit­ing

(as usual to­day), Wil­liam Ken­tridge’s Salzburg stag­ing of Berg’s mas­ter­work has trans­ferred well to DVD. The sin­gle stage set – a shat­tered and dystopian First World War town­scape – re­lies heav­ily on film and slide-pro­jec­tion, most of it fairly dark, which shows a notch bet­ter on Blu-ray. There are de­tails that ir­ri­tate: in the open­ing scene, Wozzeck is turn­ing a film pro­jec­tor for the Cap­tain in­stead of shav­ing him, mak­ing non­sense of the li­bretto’s later ref­er­ence to ex­actly this. On the whole, though, the stag­ing and de­sign re­mark­ably par­al­lel the flar­ing power and vir­tu­os­ity of Berg’s score, here per­formed to a stan­dard that’s as good as it gets.

Matthias Go­erne’s Wozzeck is a sig­na­ture role for him, and while the pas­sage of time shows in a strained top note or two, he gives a mas­terly portrayal of a sim­ple man whose life is de­stroyed by things he can do noth­ing about – hope­less poverty, vi­cious mil­i­tarism, and his own over­heated imag­i­na­tion (mir­rored with alarm­ing bril­liance in the slide-pro­jec­tion). As­mik Grigo­rian’s Marie of­fers a sim­i­lar mas­ter­class in how to truly sing her role, avoid­ing cod-ex­pres­sion­ist yowl­ing while de­liv­er­ing su­perla­tive act­ing: Marie’s progress from bore­dom and wan­ton feck­less­ness to gen­uine con­tri­tion (too late) could not be more mov­ingly con­veyed. Two bril­liant cameos come from Ger­hard Siegel’s Cap­tain and Jens Larsen’s Doc­tor – each de­spis­ing the other, but not as much as both de­spise the be­wil­dered Wozzeck, as the scene be­tween these three makes piti­lessly clear; and John Daszak’s randy Drum Ma­jor struts and preens as Marie’s neme­sis.

The Vi­enna Phil­har­monic plays for Vladimir Jurowski with a lus­trous clar­ity that some might find too sump­tu­ous for such a bleak work. A dif­fer­ent view­point (shared by me) would be that Berg, a true son of Vi­enna, grew up with this kind of or­ches­tral sound, to which his score was a ground-break­ing mod­ernist trib­ute. Mal­colm Hayes PER­FOR­MANCE


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