Review of Ensemble Parallèle's Wozzeck
January 31, 2010
* Notes *
John Rea's reorchestration of Wozzeck had a West Coast premiere last night in San Francisco. Ensemble Parallèle was both robust and focused under conductor Nicole Paiement. The 28 musicians produced a much sound, despite their small numbers, even overwhelming the singing on occasion. Brian Staufenbiel's production made artful use of video that eschewed, for the most part, the effect of an oversized screen saver. There were two instances of live video capture, one of the Hauptmann when he was being shaved and one of the Doktor when he was experimenting on Wozzeck. The latter came off as somewhat artificial, since there is no reason in the plot the Doktor is obliged to stand so still and face away from the person he is speaking to. The set was versatile and clean, essentially consisting only of two pieces that were rolled this way and that to suggest the many scenes.
The singers were uniformly strong. Along with nearly everyone else in the cast, bass John Bischoff sang heartily in the inn scene of Act II. AJ Glueckert was appropriately self-important as the Drum Major, and was convincing. Philip Skinner (the Doctor) and John Duykers (the Captain) expressed much through their faces in their aforementioned close-ups. Patricia Green was piercing as Marie, yet not unsympathetic as a character. In the title role, Bojan Knežević was quite disturbing, his voice is splendidly beautiful. He was able to emanate the despair and hopelessness of the character.
* Tattling *
The audience uncommmonly well-behaved. There was no electronic noise, only a slight bit of whispering, and a few coughs. For 90 minutes in one go, it was rather remarkable.