Wozzeck at the Met

WOZ_1544a* Notes *
William Kentridge's latest production of Wozzeck (pictured, photograph by Ken Howard) at The Met perfectly captures the nightmarish quality of Berg's piece. The opening yesterday evening was one of immersive theater and absolutely beautiful playing from the orchestra.

The set is dark, filled with projected drawings, animations, and video footage of human movement. The beauty of the images really puts to shame much of the screensaver-like video projections we often see on the opera stage.

There are a couple of actors dressed up as soldier/nurse hybrids complete with gas masks, caps with red crosses, and aprons. It was as if Kentridge's images had come to life and the effect is unsettling.

Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted a clarion orchestra, the shape of the music apparent and striking. The banda that comes on stage through a wardrobe did particularly well. The chorus also was great, sounding cohesive and embodying the aesthetic of the production.

The cast is strong, as one would expect. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn is malicious but still comic as the Doctor, matched well by the incisive tones from tenor Gerhard Siegel as the Captain. Tenor Christopher Ventris is a bold Drum Major, appealing but his cruelty comes through clearly in Act II, Scene 5, when he taunts Wozzeck.

Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford (Margret) has some wonderfully deep low notes, a fine contrast with soprano Elza van den Heever (Marie). Van den Heever showed her range, she could be terrifying, almost harsh and sweet and even close to angelic. Most impressive is baritone Peter Mattei in the title role. His warm sound is engaging, and his pathos made Wozzeck seem very human.

IMG_1901* Tattling *
We sat in Row B, all the way to the right of the house. After 8pm, when the performance was supposed to begin, a woman boldly sat in front of us, where one of the staff usually sits to guard a door to the orchestra pit. The employee directly asked to see the person's ticket, and she made many excuses, even lying that she did have that seat.

There was some light talking, and someone loudly hushed the offenders at least once. Some people definitely left early, even though there was no intermission.

Philharmonia Orchestra's Wozzeck

Philharmonia-orchestra-peg-skorpinski* Notes * 
Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra (pictured left, photograph by Peg Skorpinski) stopped at Cal Performances this weekend as part of a US tour. Last night's program was a semi-staged version of Wozzeck. The lack of set and costumes allowed the music to take precedence, and the drama of this piece remained vivid and clear.

Joshua Ellicott (Andres) sang prettily, while Hubert Francis (the Drum-Major) was strong. Tijl Faveyts was a creepy doctor, his voice has a dryness that makes for a good contrast with the other low voices. He did have a tendency to blend in with the more highly orchestrated parts of the music. Peter Hoare's Captain is mocking and bright. 

Angela Denoke has a sound few rough or sharp edges, yet was able to faithfully portray Marie's anguish. Johan Reuter made for a sympathetic Wozzeck, piteous and crazed. His voice is warm.

* Tattling * 
There was some light talking from long-time patrons in the orchestra section. An iPhone (Apple's personal assistant application) was heard when the Idiot sings "Lustig, lustig...aber es riecht." Someone's phone rang when Wozzeck sang about death in the last act.

Wozzeck at Santa Fe Opera

  Wozzeck-act3* Notes *
Santa Fe Opera's revival of Wozzeck last Saturday was nothing short of impressive. The orchestra had a full and intense sound under David Robertson, only occasionally overwhelming the singers. Daniel Slater's production has a fine, stark clarity. The Fool (played by Randall Bills) as Wozzeck's double was artful. The set, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, makes good use of the space, and is enhanced by Rick Fisher's lighting. The scene changes were smooth. There were just a few moments when the humming of motors or the impact of edges against one another could be heard. The costumes, also from Hopkins, are smart and use an attractive palette of colors. The stylized choreography from John Carrafa is sharply defined and suits Berg's music.

The singers were strong. The chorus was together and sounded almost strangely beautiful. Stuart Skelton was menacing as the Drum Major, yet his voice was appealingly warm and bright. Eric Owens was quite funny as the Doctor, with a rich, powerful sound. Robert Brubaker also made for a humorous Captain, his voice is pingy and cuts through the orchestration without being shrill. Nicola Beller Carbone (Marie) showed a range of emotions through her voice, her singing in Act III, Scene 1 was particularly lovely. Her physicality throughout the opera was admirable. Richard Paul Fink (pictured above in Act III, Scene 4, photograph by Ken Howard) gave a visceral and captivating performance as Wozzeck. Fink excels at Sprechstimme, and he inhabited the character completely.

* Tattling * 
It rained 30 minutes before the performance, and lightening was visible during the opera, but thunder was not noted. There was minor electronic noise in the form of watch alarms at 10pm. Standing room was not crowded. Some of the latecomers were audible, but not bothersome. I did have to use all of my powers of concentration to ignore the ushers whispering in the last five minutes of the opera.

Santa Fe Opera's 2011 Season

July 1- August 27 2011: Faust
July 2- August 26 2011: La Bohème
July 16- August 19 2011: Griselda
July 23- August 25 2011: The Last Savage
July 30- August 17 2011: Wozzeck

Santa Fe just announced that their new chief conductor is Frederic Chaslin and what is coming up for the 2011 season. Bryan Hymel and Dimitri Pittas share the role of Faust, opposite of Ailyn Pérez. Ana María Martínez and David Lomelí sing in La Bohème. Meredith Arwady, David Daniels, and Amanda Majeski sing in Vivaldi's Griselda. Daniel Okulitch and Anna Christy are the leads in Menotti's The Last Savage, which is to be sung in English. Former Adler Fellow Sean Panikkar will also be in this opera. Richard Paul Fink sings the title role of Wozzeck, with Nicola Beller Carbone as Marie. Eric Owens will be the Doctor and Stuart Skelton the Drum Major.

Season | Official Site

Review of Ensemble Parallèle's Wozzeck

Wozzeck-bojan * 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.

Ensemble Parallèle's Wozzeck Presentation

Ensemble Parallèle's Artistic Director and Founder Nicole Paiement is giving a musical presentation about Berg's Wozzeck and a behind the scenes glimpse of the upcoming production. Bojan Knezevic and AJ Glueckert will offer musical examples and director Brian Staufenbiel will be on hand for a question and answer session on staging concepts.

This event occurs on December 10 at 6:30 p.m. at San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street, San Francisco) and is followed by a reception. Seating is limited and responses will be counted on a first come, first served basis. One should contact Lucik Aprahamian at [email protected] or by phone 831 252-0573.

Ensemble Parallèle's Wozzeck Preview

Alban-berg-1910 * Notes *
A reception and sneak peak of Ensemble Parallèle's forthcoming Wozzeck production was held in a private Richmond District home last night. The musical portion of the evening featured bass-baritone Bojan Knežević, who is singing the title role. Accompanied by Scott Foglesong on piano, he sang Leporello's "Catalogue" Aria from Don Giovanni and Alberich's Curse from Das Rheingold. The intimate setting was a bit intimidating for the audience, perhaps. Knežević has a gorgeous voice.

Nicole Paiement, the Artistic Director and Conductor of Ensemble Parallèle, gave a talk about Wozzeck and the 1995 reorchestration for 21 musicians from John Rea they are to perform at the end of January here at YBCA in San Francisco. She went through an entire dramatic and musical overview within half an hour, with a few musical examples. Her enthusiasm for this project is palpable. She had Rea's score in three volumes and encouraged audience members to take a look after her presentation.

* Tattling *
I had the great pleasure of being both being mistaken for and meeting the journalist Chloe Veltman. I also had the opportunity to chat with the Associate Director of Communications at San Francisco Opera, the stage director of this Wozzeck, the General Manager of the ensemble, Paiement, and Knežević.