Munich’s Ever Fabulous Wozzeck

26/07/2012

A. Berg, Wozzeck: Soloists, Bavarian State Opera, Chorus and Children’s Chorus, Lothar Koenigs (conductor), National Theater, Munich, 22.7.2012 (JMI)

Coproduction Bavarian State Opear and New National Theatre Tokyo.

Direction: Andreas Kriegenburg
Sets: Harald B. Thor
Costumes: Andrea Schraad
Lighting: Stefan Bolliger

Cast:

Wozzeck: Simon Keenlyside
Marie. Waltraud Meier
Drum Major: Roman Sadnik
Captain: Wolfgang Schmidt
Doctor: Cive Bayley
Andres: Kevin Conners
Marie’s child: Alexander Lakatar
The Fool: Kenneth Robertson

Picture (Wozzeck, 2008) courtesy Bavarian State Opera, © Wilfried Hösl

Andreas Kriegenburg’s fascinating production of Wozzeck premiered at the Bavarian State Opera in November 2008 (for a detailed description and production photos, see Jens Laurson’s review here) and has been revived every year to acclaim of critics and audience alike. As Kriegenburg does in his Munich Ring, he uses numerous extras that move the action along: darkly dressed underworldly inhabitants of an oppressed world, eager to pick any scraps thrown to them like starving fish in an aquarium. All characters, except for Wozzeck, Marie and her child, are genuinely spooky, with white-painted faces and deformations—particularly the Doctor and the Captain. Andrea Schraad’s costumes are remarkable as is Stefan Bolliger’s excellent lighting.

Until two years ago, only Kent Nagano has been conducting this Wozzeck; last year he passed the baton to Lothar Koenigs who also conducted on this occasion. Wozzeck is not an easy opera to conduct, but Lothar Koenigs navigated all the challenges safely in this excellent, very well played reading.

Usually this production’s Wozzeck is Michael Volle, but he was very well replaced by Simon Keenlyside whose great vocal and dramatic performance once again reminded me of what a great artist he is. Waltraud Meier took over the part of Marie, initially shaped by Michaela Schuster and then Angela Denoke. And despite her reputation of riding roughshod over stage directions, she fit in and was fully convincing from beginning to end.

Roman Sadnik as the Drum Major was more convincing as an actor than a singer; the rest—Wolfgang Schmidt (Captain) and Clive Bayley (Doctor)—also turned in very good performances with the dramatic element taking slight precedence over purely vocal aspects.

José Mª Irurzun

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