World Premiere adaptation/re-orchestration


photos courtesy of Don Lee

WOZZECK by Alban Berg, based on the play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner
Conductor: Lorraine Vaillancourt
Cast: Bryne/MacNaughton, Marcotte/Vindevogel, Houtman, Jones, McMurtry, van Neer, Studebaker, Synek
Production: P. Werner (scenery/clothes), H. Frehner (lighting)

“…it is the uncompromising reality of the work that has got to be dealt with if you are to see a great production such as the one that has been playing this week in Montreal. The opera’s setting has been moved from Europe of 1830’s to Germany after the Second World War. Wozzeck is now a cashiered German soldier who lives in a ruined building with Marie and their child. He does odd jobs for the conquering Americans. Marie, who has prostituted herself while Wozzeck was away at war, expects him to save her from having to do so again. But, in spite of her glares, he seems indifferent to the persistent visits of the US soldiers. Marie, crying “one man is as good as another”, finally gives in. Wozzeck diverts himself by obsessively sweeping the ashes and wood shavings that cover the stage, creating a clean circle. In the midst of this circle Marie receives her obese clients, straddling them while they sit on a chair, as Wozzeck sings his aria of alienation. The panache of Muni’s directing is equaled by the confidence of John Rea’s re-orchestration of the opera for 21 instruments. Peter Werner’s set is extraordinary. The three stage walls are covered with flats painted to represent the walls of a building that has been strafed and bombed. The stage is the interior courtyard of the building, a desolate zone of broken glass and weathered-beaten furniture where Wozzeck lives. In the second half of the opera, a huge disc-shaped portion of the rear wall, five stories high, descends slowly into the courtyard lie a gigantic drawbridge. Wozzeck plays out the last moments of his life hunched beneath the slowly descending wall. It is a brilliant physical metaphor for a production that brilliantly confronts the challenges of the opera.”

Ray Conlogue, The Globe and Mail (September, 1995)

“Il est des oeuvres phares qui marquent le monde. Wozzeck est de ce type-la. Comme en plus il s’agit d’une réussite éblouissante et bouleversante, l’événement deviant incontournable: cette presentation de l’opéra de Berg constitue le point fort de toute la saison d’opéra à Montreal. Une soirée remplie de miracles. L’adaptation à l’Allemagne occupée par les Américains est tout à fait plausible et frappe en plein plexus solaire. Même chose pour l’exploitation de l’homme par la medicine at la psychiatrie. Berg nous convainc de sa plus que sympathie pour les déshumanises de monde. Le décor est effroyablement efficace. Tout au long de l’opéra, au centre de ces portes et fenêtres où tous s’espionnent et se méprisent, soret de déchrure du tissue urbain, Wozzeck creuse sa tombe, l’étang dans lequel il s’enfoncera. Wozzeck est un opera violent, mais aussi profondément humain qui décrie le misère et l’hypocrisie tout en émouvant le Coeur, et il y avait beauté.”

(Translation by Katrin Sermat)
“Some works are landmarks that leave their imprint on the world. Wozzeck is one of those works. And since it’s a dazzling, stunning achievement, it’s a must-see. This presentation of Berg’s opera is the high point of the entire Montreal opera season. It’s an evening of miracles. The adaptation of the setting to American-occupied Germany is entirely believable, like a kick in the solar plexus. The same applies to the exploitation of man by medicine and psychiatry. Berg convinces us of his abiding sympathy for the dehumanized world. The set design is terrifyingly effective. Throughout the opera, amid doors and windows from which the mistrustful characters spy on each other—a sort of rip in the urban fabric—Wozzeck digs his grave, the pond into which he throws himself. Wozzeck is violent, but it is also profoundly moving. It condemns misery and hypocrisy with heartrending emotion, and there was plenty of emotion on Sunday evening. You have only three more chances to see this production. It will shake you up, but you will come out enlightened and enriched by the truth in the art of opera.”
Francois Tousignant, Le Devoir (Montreal) (September, 1995)

“Truth came to life in the intimacy of the Monument National’s Salle Ludger-Duvernay Sunday night. Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne electrified a capacity audience with a provocative Wozzeck. The overall artistic effect was impressive. The mixed crowd was genuinely glad to see successful risks being taken with Berg’s masterpiece and everyone wants NEM to do Lulu next year.”
Philip Anson, Mirror (September, 1995)

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