Wozzeck, is by no means a normal opera. Yet it includes all the quintessential themes we love and hate. Love, murder, rape, death just to name a few all interwoven into Berg’s eery setting of a German doctors surgery in the 1920s.
The small cast certainly assists this gripping narrative and as such its easy to fall sympathetic with certain characters. Karita Mattila certainly stands out in terms of operatic vocal performance, emotion reels through her voice and had even the hardiest of audience members will have been close to a tear or two.
It may not be Rigoletto or the Barber of Seville, but certainly its an opera your going to remember. Berg certainly does not give much opportunity for the audience to breathe, with drama injected as frequent as Wozzeck (Simon Keenlyside) himself being tested in one of the Doctor’s ghastly experiments. As an ex-soldier he is indeed stretched far beyond the horrific experiences one would never hope to experience, by day he is subject to twisted experiment, and whist he is earning the bacon, or at least a very small fraction of money towards it, his wife is earning her upkeep by serving as a prostitute to a superior ranking member of the armed forces.
Marie, and their son – who is silent throughout – are the only two people who anchor him onto some form of reality. When she turns unfaithful, this becomes the catalyst of chaos and madness presides until the curtain falls. Somewhat assisted by the four vitrines gliding up and down, over and over again that contain contraptions and potions and preserves of the unknown, perhaps representing the different elements at force that are unstable and tortured.
Throughout the juxtaposition of emotions is an obvious representation of those prevalent in early twentieth century Germany, and most importantly in the aftermath of losing the Great War. The Doctor (John Tomlinson) and Captain (Gerhard Siegel) are both subjects of sadism, Marie’s frustration and energetic sentiment shines as a beacon of hope, devastatingly, and typically fatally cut short just before Wozzeck’s demise into the realms of madness and his own eventual suicide.
Wozzeck is both an experiment of operatic form and twisted human science. The protagonist is for large period imprisoned in the laboratory, whilst his woman and child back home are sectioned off to the left in a one room dwelling. As such this scenery simultaneously charges both man and woman’s ongoing misery and descent to death.
Although Wozzeck certainly does not lend itself to the easy-listening form of opera. Audiences are guaranteed to be enthralled by the gripping narrative, ongoing interludes of period folksong, with masterful conducting by Sir Mark Elder, return us to ground that this was based on a very true event.