Monday, March 10, 2014

It's a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad World: Goerne's Surprise Wozzeck at the Met

My jaw hit the proverbial floor yesterday when I heard the announcement that, for opening night of the Met's revival of Alban Berg's masterpiece, "Wozzeck," Matthias Goerne was stepping in at the last possible minute for an ailing Thomas Hampson. Goerne agreed sometime late afternoon for a performance (in a staging he'd never done and seen only once) to take part in the performance that would begin only 3 or 4 hours from his decision. (On a side note, I'm certain I wasn't alone in wondering "will he/won't he?" regarding Hampson and this Wozzeck.) Hopefully Mr. Hampson recovers and we get to hear his take on the role, but what a treat to hear one of the 2 or 3 leading Wozzecks of our time in his role debut at the Big House - even if I couldn't be there, thankfully it was carried on Sirius/XM Radio.

First off, having Levine back in the pit was a joy, despite his naysayers who complain of his treating Wozzeck as though it were The Merry Widow. The nuances, beauties, subtleties and in-your-face horrors of Berg's tremendous
score came crashing through, revealing just why this opera is one of the few 20th century operas to have gained such a stronghold on audiences and an obsession for so many (myself included). The celeste music that opens the first scene between Wozzeck and Marie always tears me up, its gentleness like the faintest ray of light peering through the darkest, densest and frightening forest - and Jimmy made this moment truly shine.

Some complain that Goerne is too much of a lieder singer and not enough "oomph" but I love his throaty brand of singing found him to have the perfect mix of beauty and roughness that makes Wozzeck the most pitiable (and oddly loveable - in an entirely different way) character The scenes between Wozzeck and Marie were heartbreaking - right up until his knife takes her. I would have loved to have been able to have been there to see him in this production.

As Marie, Deborah Voigt started off pretty rough and there is almost not a drop of beauty anywhere left in that once most beautiful of voices. Lower, unforced passages, the faintest glimmer of its former beauty tried to leak out, a sad
reminder of what once was. Her commitment, however, seemed total and, some horrifying (and unnecessary) shrieking sounds aside, she was able to create an effective portrayal of this poor anti-heroine. I'm certain seeing her would have made the effect even more powerful.

Peter Hoare was terrific as the Captain as was Mr. O'Neil as the Drum major . . . though his singing made me glad they swapped out Parsifal for Wozzeck as I can't imagine that voice - at least as heard last night - as the new Grail King,
less so, Ms. Voigt as Kundry. Clive Bailey kept the Met tradition going of offering really fine singers as the Doctor in this opera ... they luck out every time, and so do we.

Once again, Levine and the band were the real stars -along with Herr Berg. The interludes did everything the composer wanted them to and maybe just a bit more in offering relief from the brutality of Wozzeck's sad, sad, sad, sad world!

As a "bonus" here is a dress rehearsal shot of Mr. Hampson finishing off Marie!

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